CHICAGO — Walk anywhere near the intersection of Clark and Addison on Chicago's north side and you will start to feel the tension that comes along with a Chicago Cubs team that is seeing its postseason hopes slip through its collective fingers.
Just 3-7 over their last 10 games, the Cubs dropped another tough decision on Wednesday night, falling to the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field. The Friendly Confines have been anything but in recent games, as the Cubs have dropped four of their last six home games. Chicago has four regular-season home games left (Thursday against Pittsburgh followed by a weekend series against the Colorado Rockies) before taking off on a brutal road trip to end the season, visiting two division leaders in Atlanta and Milwaukee.
Hanging on to a postseason spot will be tough (according to Baseball Reference, Chicago's postseason odds have gone down 26.4 percent over the past seven games) and the Cubs will need to once again find the winning formula from earlier in the season to punch their October ticket. The Cubs also need these three players to get back to form.
Chicago Cubs player on the hot seat: Justin Steele
It's hard to point a finger at a starting pitcher who was in the Cy Young conversation to start the season. However, the southpaw's hopes at some hardware have taken a major hit in recent days.
On Wednesday, Steele allowed six runs on eight hits in just 3.0 innings. That followed an outing against the Arizona Diamondbacks (one of the teams the Cubs are battling for a Wild Card spot) where he also allowed six runs, this time over 6.0 innings while giving up a pair of home runs as well.
If David Ross keeps his rotation schedule the same, Steele could potentially have two more starts this season. The first of those will likely come on Tuesday night in Atlanta as the Cubs kick off the important road swing. Steele's outing could be one that sets the tone for the rest of the trip, and another dud simply won't cut it for a Cubs team that needs him to pitch like the ace he seemed to be before his last pair of outings.