Cubs' motivation comes from humble goal

CHICAGO -- When it gets as bad as it has gotten for the Chicago Cubs this season, you end up inventing goals.

The one the club has been rallying around of late is the push to avoid a 100-loss season.

So while other teams make a push for a playoff berth, the Cubs are rallying to avoid the century mark. It’s not what you draw up in spring training, but it’s something at least.

The subject came up when the Cubs were being trounced by the Washington Nationals on the recent road trip, but now that they have won five of six games heading into play Friday, they stand a good chance of avoiding the dubious distinction.

"I think nobody wants to be associated with a 100-loss team; it would be really nice to avoid," president Theo Epstein said. “We’ll try to win every game but if we can win enough to avoid 100 that would be a very, very small victory but certainly better than losing 100. I think the guys feel that. Nobody wants to be a part of that.”

The Cubs entered the homestand with a 56-87 record meaning that seven more victories is a guarantee they can’t lose more than 99 games. Counting Friday’s game, they have 19 more to play this season.

“You never want to be part of a team that loses 100 games,” manager Dale Sveum said. “It’s a pride thing, obviously. We know where we are right now but it’s still a pride thing and it’s obviously not out of reach. To hang on and not lose 100 games, it’s a motivating thing but it’s a pride thing to know you weren’t part of those teams.”

There really isn’t much of a difference between losing 99 and 100 games, but the fat round number brings a stigma with it.

So if it got down to crunch time and they Cubs still needed a late victory to avoid the mark, would they consider bringing back Jeff Samardzija to pitch again or use a hot pitcher on short rest?

“No. Absolutely 100 percent not,” Epstein said. “We’re going to do what we can to win every game but you are what your record says. We’ll look up at the end of the year and see where we are but we couldn’t short change player’s development or put a player in jeopardy health wise to try to avoid something like that. It would be really small-minded to do something like that.”

The good news for the Cubs is that 13 of their final 19 games are at home, with the final three coming against the Houston Astros, the only club with a worse record than theirs. They also have three games at Colorado, which has a 57-85 record this season.