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SportsMonday: The Cubs Are Back - To Shaky

Willson Contreras is good enough to play a big role in the Cubs doing some damage in the 2017 playoffs. The rest of the team - not so much.

Sunday's 9-4 loss to the Nationals, the one that gave the squad from the District a 2-1 series win and wrapped up the Cubs' 2-4 failure of a homestand, showed again that Contreras can raise his game and do big things against big-time opponents. He bashed two more home runs on Sunday, giving him 10 since the All-Star break (and 21 overall).

It would be great if at least one teammate would start to significantly raise his game as well.

If that doesn't happen, the Cubs won't do anything in the playoffs. Hell, they'll be hard-pressed to make the postseason, what with the Brewers refusing to give up after their rough series the weekend before and still trailing in the Central by only a half-game going into this week.

The Brewers are even starting to make the battle for the wild cards interesting. After Sunday's action they were five games out of the second wild card spot. Perhaps the Diamondbacks and the Rockies won't be able to keep their monopoly over those playoff spots after all.

Um, I'm sorry, did I just hear that JAY CUTLER SIGNED WITH THE DOLPHINS! I'm not going to write about that this week but when the Bears lose their first five, six, seven games in a row, Jay's games with Miami will be one of the many delightful options for NFL entertainment for the rest of the season.

OK, so I actually will probably try to make watching Dolphins games a priority from the moment he steps on the field for them.

This will be great stuff - what with many locals still of the mind that Cutler could have been great in Chicago if he'd just had enough support. My guess is he won't excel for the Dolphins but I've been wrong before, and wrong before that. For one thing, I was sure that Dusty Baker's insistence on trotting out ridiculous lineup after ridiculous lineup over the weekend with none of his four-man Murderer's Row in the first two spots would come back to haunt him. But the Cubs failed to take advantage.

Of course the Nationals lineup would have more success with, say, Daniel Murphy in the leadoff spot and Anthony Rendon batting No. 2 followed by Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. That would mean more at-bats for the his team's most dangerous hitters. But Dusty refuses to think that way. On Saturday he had guys in the first and second spots hitting .260 and .242 going in and the ninth inning was a perfect illustration of what we are talking about.

The batting order turned over with the Cubs clinging to a three-run lead and here came Wilmer Difoe and Brian Goodwin to theplate instead of Murphy and Rendon. The rally stalled. Murphy and Rendon were buried in the fifth and sixth spots again on Sunday but Carl Edwards gave the game away in the eighth.

And here we are back in Cubsville, where none of the regulars other than journeyman Jon Jay has a chance to hit .300 this year. Heck, no one other than Contreras is over .280, and while of course OBP is more important than batting average, those numbers aren't that impressive either. For one thing, neither Kris Bryant nor Anthony Rizzo seems capable of pushing his on-base plus slugging into the .950-plus neighborhood inhabited by all four of the Nationals' studs.

And oh by the way, did anyone other than Joe Maddon think it was a good idea for the Cubs to bust out matching leather vests and have a dim-witted Easy Rider road trip heading out of Wrigley after a highly disappointing Sunday? I didn't think so.

The good news is, Maddon said Sunday he hasn't spent as much time thinking about these sorts of hijinks this season, what with his having to presumably focus on the team not playing very well until the two weeks after the All-Star break. Now another week has passed and the Cubs are still in shaky territory.

Let's hope they can find their way again this week on the West Coast.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

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