After 153 games in the 2004 season, the Chicago Cubs were coming off of a four-game win streak, had an 87-66 record, and a 2 1/2 game lead on Houston for the Wild Card. However, a 2-7 finish to the season against the Mets, Reds, and Braves allowed the Astros to win the wild card by a whopping 3 games.
After 156 games this year, we were similarly coming off of a four-game winning streak and had a 83-73 record, which was good for a 3 1/2 game lead over the Brewers for the division lead. We all remember 2004 and we all had it in the back of our minds, but we kept reassuring ourselves: "it can't happen again" or "we have a bigger lead this time."
And while it's true that the lead was greater and we were three games deeper into the season this year, the Cubs seem to be more interested in arguing with the umpires than actually playing baseball, leading to a sweep at the hands of the Florida Marlins and are now in jeopardy of seeing their lead dwindle to just one game at the end of tonight's play.
The Cubs will play the Reds, the same team responsible for the playoff contention elimination in 2004, in the final three games of the season at the Great American Ballpark. While Adam Dunn is out for the season, the Cubs do still have to deal with both Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang.
The only good news is that the Brewers have their last four against the Padres who are very much in the middle of the playoff hunt. With Maddux and Young (and possibly Peavy) going in the series, Milwaukee already had their backs up against the wall, but the loss of Ben Sheets will hurt even more.
Sheets, who left his last start two turns ago after one inning due to a hamstring pull, was scratched from Friday's start and lefty Chris Capuano has been inserted in place. The Brewers have lost each of the last 21 games in which Capuano has appeared, but you throw all of that out the window at this point in the year.