Fork in The Road For Cubs Season

Justin GoldbergContributor IJune 19, 2008

After a very unfortunate stretch of games in Tampa Bay, the Cubs must now decide whether or not this will be the year.

Chicago lost three tough games to the Rays, marking the first time they have been swept by any team this season.

It began Tuesday night, when the Cubs had a great opportunity to keep the game alive late.

Kosuke Fukudome may have been able to score the tying run on a wild pitch with one out, but he stayed at third, never crossing home plate.

The next night, Chicago entered the ninth down 5-3. Geovany Soto led off the inning with a solo home run, but nothing else developed in the inning, sending the Cubs to another close defeat.

Tampa Bay completed the sweep in a game which the Cubs had a great opportunity to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the year.

The big blow was a Carl Crawford grand slam in the seventh, starting the scoring in a seven-run inning, leading the Rays to an 8-3 victory in a game that was closer than the score shows.

All three of these games could have gone into the win column, but instead the Cubs continued their road woes.

What made this series a lot more painful, however, was the pain of the players themselves.

Two outfielders were lost in Reed Johnson and Jim Edmonds. Although neither player plans on being out for an extended period of time, Jim's plantar fasciitis and Reed's back spasms are the type of injuries that can linger, having a long-term effect on productivity.

The most important injury occurred on Wednesday night, when Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano left the game with what the team called "right shoulder soreness."

Zambrano's MRI was moved back to Friday, but Big Z has already been pulled from his scheduled start on Tuesday against Baltimore.

Hopefully by Friday it will be known how long Zambrano, who received only his second loss since Apr. 11 on Wednesday, will be out. If he misses more than a few starts, it could be very harmful to the Cubs chances.

This is the point where the Cubs will make or break their season. For the past 99 years, there has always been a point in the season that sabotaged the North Siders' chances at a World Series title.

This appears to be that point in the 2008 season for the Chicago Cubs. If they can bounce back from a string of many unfortunate events, they may very well have a shot at ending the century long drought.

If their pattern of shaky defense, poor situational hitting, and surplus of injuries continues for much longer, however, the Cubs may soon be looking up at St. Louis and Milwaukee in the standings.

It's certainly not time to panic yet, but if the Cubs continue to play this brand of baseball and dig themselves into a hole, they could be in trouble.

This ball club needs to prove that it can stop the bleeding here and begin playing like a first place team again, or we may soon find ourselves waiting for next year once again.