Cubs compete, come up short vs. Cardinals as grueling stretch ends

Cubs compete, come up short as grueling stretch ends originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

For the first time in over a week, the Cubs will take a day off Monday.

Sunday marked the end of the Cubs’ challenging nine-day stretch with 11 games against the crosstown White Sox and division rival Brewers and Cardinals.

A stretch against three teams with playoff aspirations, with two doubleheaders included.

The Cubs held their own, finishing with a 5-6 record in a long week of baseball after dropping Sunday’s series finale to the Cardinals.

They split a four-game series with Milwaukee this week, and St. Louis won this weekend’s five-game set by taking Sunday’s rubber match.

“Two really good teams coming in here with a lot of games in between off days,” manager David Ross said. “The guys are giving everything they’ve got plus.”

The Cubs came up short Sunday. St. Louis rallied in the ninth inning to tie the game and eventually took the lead for good in the 11th.

The Cubs had a chance to walk it off in the 10th, getting the winning run on third with one out, but didn’t cash in.

“We were right in that game the entire time,” second baseman Nick Madrigal said. “A couple situations just didn’t come through for us. That’s baseball.

“I feel like in most of the games, even lately, we’ve been right there. It just hasn’t gone our way. ”

Of the Cubs’ six losses during the 11-game stretch, three were in extra innings, including Game 2 on Saturday. They beat Milwaukee in extras Wednesday.

The Brewers and Cardinals are still frontrunners in the NL Central this season as the Cubs rebuild for the second time in a decade.

But if you want to look at silver linings from the last stretch, consider the pitching performances of Caleb Kilian, Matt Swarmer, Keegan Thompson and Justin Steele.

Kilian, the Cubs’ top pitching prospect in recent memory, had a sharp big-league debut in the nightcap of Saturday’s doubleheader.

Swarmer threw his second quality start in as many tries as a big leaguer in Game 1 of the twinbill.

Thompson impressed in his latest start Thursday, and Steele threw seven strong innings Sunday, tying his career longest outing.

“Justin Steele threw a phenomenal game,” Ross said. “We swung the bats really good this homestand, I thought, against some pretty good pitching.

“These guys fight tooth and nail for every out, for every run,” Ross added. “Super proud of how the team is playing.”

It was a grueling stretch, but one with signs of promising days ahead.

“We’ve had some good wins last week,” Madrigal said. “It’s going to be a big road trip for us.”

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