As Dodgers fans nervously sweat out September, counting down the days and anxious about whether the greatest collapse in baseball history really is happening, the Dodgers are not the only team putting their fans on edge.
The Dodgers should clinch a playoff spot any day now. The Chicago Cubs might see October from the comfort of their couches.
The Cubs were not a Cinderella champion last year. When they won the World Series, they did so with a young and presumably rising core: Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward are 28, Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras are 25, Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber are 24, and Addison Russell is 23.
The Cubs won the National League Central by 17 1/2 games last season. They led by five this season, at least when they awoke on Friday, with 22 games to play.
They now lead by two, after a weekend sweep by the Milwaukee Brewers.
In the three games, the Cubs scored three runs. In losing six of eight games, they scored eight runs in one of the games, and a total of eight runs in the other seven. Neither Bryant nor Rizzo has hit a home run this month.
“The name of the game is find a way to get it done,” Heyward told reporters Sunday. “Nobody’s going to care at the end of the year. It’s just: Are you in or not?”
The Dodgers should be in, even if as a wild-card team, even in the unprecedented and extremely unlikely event that they blow a 21-game lead to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West.
There can be no gloating in Dodger land. The Dodgers have lost 10 consecutive games. If you believe in omens, you might be interested to know the last Dodgers team with a longer losing streak played in Brooklyn, in 1944, with a roster that included Ralph Branca and Gene Mauch.
Branca and Mauch are linked to two of the greatest collapses of all time. Branca gave up the season-losing home run to Bobby Thomson – “the shot ‘heard round the world” – when the 1951 Dodgers blew a 13-game lead to the New York Giants. Mauch was the manager of the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies, a team that blew a 6-1/2 game lead with 12 to play.
So what would be worse, blowing more than a half of a 21-game lead but still advancing to the playoffs, or blowing a five-game lead with 22 to play and all that great young talent? The Cubs will get back to you, but the glare from those World Series rings is pretty bright.
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin