Playing in close games has been key for the Chicago Cubs this season.

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

Overall, the Cubs’ 85 games decided by two runs or less are tied for the most in Major League Baseball behind the Pirates (83). The Cubs own a 39-46 record (.459) in those games. He also has 50 one-run games, third most in the majors.

“We’ve had some opportunities recently where the other team has given us some gifts to help us out a little bit,” manager David Ross said Saturday. “That’s something we focus on trying to get a little bit better, but I wouldn’t say anything came up (during that stretch). I think these guys played hard until the end. And they are doing little things to help themselves.

After Saturday’s 6-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cubs have 10 games remaining — one in Pittsburgh, three vs. the Phillies and six straight against the Cincinnati Reds — to avoid a 90-game losing streak at least 7-3. Must go ahead. Weather

Saturday probably serves as Wade Miley’s last outing with the Cubs this year. Miley exited in the fifth inning with a left oblique strain.

When he turned to throw to second base in the fifth inning, he felt the back of his left oblique starting to take hold. An errant throw resulted in a no-out error to put runners on second and third, leading to a five-run Pirates inning after Miley was replaced by Edbert Alzoule.

He has started just eight games for the Cubs due to three stints on IL: left elbow inflammation and twice left shoulder strain. Miley, a free agent after the season, has pitched well when healthy, posting a 3.34 ERA in 35 innings.

“I mean, it’s been a frustrating year, no doubt,” Miley said. “But it’s also been a big learning experience for me and obviously a lot of young players coming up and handling some setbacks and having some success.”

As a team, the Cubs haven’t had much to play for in a while, but a few individual performances over the last 1½ weeks are worth keeping an eye on.

1. Patrick Wisdom’s quest for a 25-homer season

A left finger injury has plagued 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 home runs in two of his last three games heading into Saturday, Hikmat is looking to finish strong. He is one away from 25 homers this season, hitting a franchise rookie record 28 in 2021.

If Wisdom connects for another homer, he will become the fourth Cubs third baseman to record multiple 25-homer seasons, joining Ron Santo (eight), Aramis Ramirez (seven) and Kris Bryant (four). will He almost went deep on Saturday. PNC Park put in his 374-foot fly out to left field in the sixth inning, which would be a home run in 28 of 30 ballparks.

“Swinging good pitches, controlling my swing — I take a lot of swings that maybe sometimes try too hard there, so I tell myself to back it up a little bit and swing that hard. Don’t,” Wisdom said Friday after going home. “And so they’re good, and bad I’m swinging so hard. I don’t know if it’s making up for the angry feeling of my finger.”

2. Willson Contreras and Nico Horner look to return to game action.

The schedule is starting to work against catcher and shortstop.

Both players are hoping to return from their respective injuries before the season ends. Horner (right triceps strain) threw on the field before Saturday’s game for the second time in the series, while Contreras (sprained left ankle) returned to batting practice Saturday after testing his ankle extensively on the bases Friday. Which included twists that he didn’t feel good about. previous attempt.

For Contreras, the Cubs’ upcoming six-game homestand likely represents his last time playing in front of the home crowd at Wrigley Field. While he’s already endured emotions and goodbyes during the final home games leading up to the trade deadline, that prospect will feel more final as Contreras, an impending free agent, heads into the offseason. A return at some point in the next week will give the World Series champion another chance to cheer on Cubs fans.

Horner has nothing to prove other than getting more at-bats and experience in his return before the end of the season. His all-around game has made him the Cubs’ most consistent player this year, especially when paired with his elite defense at shortstop. He has proven to be able to build around himself.

3. Pitch often

The Cubs set a major league record last season when they used 69 players, and they are on track to set a new mark on the pitching side.

Through Friday’s game, the Cubs have used 42 pitchers, including three position players. That’s tied for the most in a single season by any major league team, matching the 2019 Mariners, 2021 Orioles and 2021 Mets.

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