Watch for in the final 10 games of season

PITTSBURGH — Playing in tight games has been a staple for the Chicago Cubs this season.

They entered Saturday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates after winning each of their last four games by one run. According to team historian Ed Hartig, it was the first time since June 17–21, 1989, that the Cubs had won four straight road games in one run.

Overall, the Cubs’ 85 games decided by two runs or less are the most in Major League Baseball ahead of the Pirates (83). The Cubs own a 39-46 (.459) record in those games. They’ve also played 50 one-run games, the third most in the majors.

“We’ve had a couple of occasions lately where the other team have given us some gifts to help us out a bit,” said manager David Ross on Saturday. “It’s something we’re focusing on to try and get a little bit better, but I’d say nothing stands out (during this stretch). I think these guys play hard to the end and do some little things to help themselves.”

With 10 games remaining after their 6-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday — one in Pittsburgh, three against the Philadelphia Phillies and six in a row against the Cincinnati Reds — the Cubs need to go at least 7-3 to hold a 90-degree loss season to avoid.

Saturday may have been Wade Miley’s last appearance with the Cubs this year. Miley went out in the fifth inning with a left bank.

He felt the back of his left oblique begin to grab as he turned to throw for second base in the fifth inning. The erroneous throw resulted in an error with no one keen to put the runners in second and third place, leading to the Pirates’ five-run inning after Adbert Alzolay replaced Miley.

He’s only started eight games for the Cubs because he had three stints in the IL: a left elbow sore and a sprained left shoulder twice. Miley, a postseason free agent, has done well in healthy condition, posting a 3.34 ERA in 35 innings.

“I mean, it’s definitely been a frustrating year,” Miley said. “But it was also a big learning experience for me and obviously a lot of young players who come up and deal with failure and succeed.”

As a team, the Cubs haven’t had much to play for some time, but there remain some individual performances worth keeping an eye on over the past 1½ weeks.

A left finger injury has hampered Patrick Wisdom since late August, affecting his ability to get into a rhythm after costing him 14 games on the injured list.

But after hitting a home run in two of his last three games before Saturday, Wisdom is looking to finish strong. He is one of 25 home runs this season and hit a franchise rookie record 28 in 2021.

If Wisdom connects for another homer, he would be the Cubs’ fourth third baseman to record multiple 25-homer seasons, along with Ron Santo (eight times), Aramis Ramírez (seven times) and Kris Bryant (four times). He almost went deep on Saturday. PNC Park maintained its 374-foot flyout to left field in the sixth inning for what would be a home run in 28 of baseball’s 30 stadiums.

“Swinging in good pitches, controlling my swing — I do a lot of swings that are probably the maximum effort up there at times, so I tell myself to cut it back a little and not swing as hard,” Wisdom said Friday after he had shot. “So those are the good ones, and the bad ones are that I swing too much. I don’t know if it compensates for my tactile sensitivity.”

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The schedule begins to work against the catcher and shortstop.

Both players still hope to return before the end of the season due to their respective injuries. Hoerner (right tricep strain) made throws on the field for the second time in this series ahead of Saturday’s game, while Contreras (left ankle sprain) returned to hitting practice on Saturday after vigorously testing his ankle on Friday, including turns that worked for hadn’t felt good about him previous attempt.

For Contreras, the Cubs’ upcoming six-game home game may be the last time he plays in front of a home crowd at Wrigley Field. While he’s already endured the emotions and goodbyes during the last few home games before the close, this will likely feel more final as Contreras, an upcoming free agent, heads into the offseason. A return sometime next week would give the World Series champion another opportunity to appreciate the cheers of Cubs fans.

Hoerner has nothing to prove if he returns before the end of the season other than getting more shots and experience. His all-around play has made him the Cubs’ most consistent player this year, especially when you factor in his value with his elite defense at shortstop. It has proven itself to build around it.

The Cubs set a major league record with 69 players last season and are poised to set new standards on the pitching side.

As of Friday’s game, the Cubs fielded 42 pitchers, including three position players. That’s the highest scoring of any major league team in a single season, consistent with the 2019 Mariners, 2021 Orioles and 2021 Mets.

Had Monday’s 10-3 loss to the Miami Marlins gotten a little out of hand, Ross would have turned to a pitcher and considered using first baseman Alfonso Rivas should the situation arise. Rivas appeared in 28 games in his first two seasons at the University of Arizona and posted a 9.20 ERA in 29⅓ innings. He might be the guy if the Cubs are part of a blowout game in those last 10 games.