Brewers beat up Lester, top Cubs 8-5 to narrow WC lead

Chicago Cubs' Jon Lester (34) is removed from the game by manager Joe Maddon during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

We all know the best-case scenario for the 2019 Cubs.

Prove that past isn't prologue and win the World Series.

Joe Maddon gets a new deal, the reckoning is canceled and Nicholas Castellanos re-signs.

Cubs fans get another shot at living happily ever after, three years after insisting they were good to go with that 2016 championship.

But what if the Cubs are lulling their fans into a false sense of security and soon revert to the form we've seen all season? The road blues, the leadoff struggles and other issues from this angst-filled season still can come back to bite them in the final two weeks.

For the glass-is-half-empty crowd, here are some worst-case scenarios:

1. Lose to the Nationals in the wild-card game.

Though the Cubs have seven games left with the Cardinals, a wild-card game might be the most likely outcome. As it stood Monday, they would play the Nationals on Oct. 1 in Washington with a potential Max Scherzer-Yu Darvish matchup. The Nationals would be favored, so losing as underdogs might not be too painful. But if the Cubs lost at Wrigley Field, where the Nationals swept them last month, it might leave a mark.

2. Lose to the Brewers in the wild-card game.

No Christian Yelich? No Javier Baez? It wouldn't seem right, but if they meet again Oct. 1, that would be the case thanks to untimely injuries to the two superstars. The Brewers won 10 of the 19 regular-season meetings, including the last three at Miller Park to creep back into the division and wild-card races. Imagine a walk-off home run off the Cubs bullpen by Ryan Braun, whose ninth-inning grand slam Sunday shocked the Cardinals? Could it get any worse for Cubs fans? We'll hang up and wait for your answer.

3. Lose to the Cardinals in the wild-card game.

So what if the Cubs and Cardinals beat each other up in the final week and let the Brewers sneak past them to the National League Central title, forcing the longtime rivals to meet again with the season on the line? They've met only once in the postseason, when Kyle Schwarber's "Schwarbomb" landed on top of the video board in the 2015 NL Division Series. Ending this season at the hands of the Cardinals would be, in the words of Cubs President Theo Epstein, "uninspiring" and "unacceptable." Ending it with four straight games in St. Louis? As Kris Bryant might say, "Boring."

4. Tie the Cardinals for the division, lose Game 163, fall to the Brewers in the wild-card game.

A classic double doink. Not to mention, it would be a virtual rerun of the 2018 ending, when the Cubs lost Game 163 to the Brewers and the wild-card game to the Rockies the next day, both at Wrigley. You don't even want to think about the possibility of this happening in back-to-back years, right?

5. Tie the Brewers for the division, lose Game 163, fall to the Cardinals in the wild-card game.

This probably would prove to Cubs fans there is no God, and everyone in the organization would be updating their LinkedIn profiles Oct. 2.

6. Win the division, lose to the Braves in the NLDS.

The joy of a late-season comeback for a division title would somewhat mute the pain of losing to the Braves, who have played much better than the Cubs all season. Then again, the Braves bullpen has a 5.50 ERA since the All-Star break, third-worst in majors, so they are somewhat vulnerable. And if the Cubs split the first two games in Atlanta, well .

7. Win the division, lose to the Dodgers in the NLDS.

This would entail the Braves passing the Dodgers for the best record (the Dodgers lead by four games through Sunday). The Cubs and Dodgers have split their October showdowns during the Joe Maddon-Dave Roberts era, with the Cubs winning the 2016 NL Championship Series and losing in the 2017 NLCS. At least John Lackey is no longer around to face Justin Turner, so there's that.

8. Win the NLDS, lose to the Cardinals in the NLCS.

It's never a good option to have these guys end your season, especially if ex-Cub Dexter Fowler kills them from the leadoff spot. "He goes, they go home."

9. Win the NLDS, lose to the Dodgers in the NLCS.

The Dodgers are the perennial division winners the Epstein-built Cubs expected to be after 2016. Few would expect the Cubs to beat them in a best-of-seven series, so the level of pain would be minimal.

10. Miss the postseason completely.

Let the reckoning begin.

Bucky!

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