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Are Cubs eliminated from playoff contention?

103 and counting?

No team in major-league history has made it to the playoffs from more than 16 games below .500. Those who have made it from the furthest under:

G under .500 Final W-L (margin)

1914 Boston Braves 16 (12-28) 94-59 (101/2 over Giants, NL)

2005 Houston Astros 15 (16-31) 89-73 (1 over Phillies, NL wild card)

1974 Pittsburgh Pirates 14 (18-32) 88-74 (11/2 over Cardinals, NL East)

2011 Cubs 17 (35-52) 65-97 (at current pace)

Source: Elias Sports Bureau

Updated: October 27, 2011 12:31AM

WASHINGTON — Now that the Cubs have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, maybe they can use the last
21/2 months of the season to relax a little, tighten a few problem areas, take the time to get healthy and audition a few more prospects for next season.

What? You say they’re not eliminated? Then do the math.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no team ever has come from more than 16 games below .500 to reach the postseason. The Boston Braves were 12-28 after 40 games before rallying to make the playoffs in 1914.

The Cubs? Despite a strong pitching performance from veteran Ramon Ortiz in his debut with the team, they dropped to a season-worst 17 games below .500 (35-52) with a 3-2 loss Tuesday to the Washington Nationals.

‘‘Given the circumstances, everybody’s as upbeat and positive as they can be,’’ infielder Jeff Baker said. ‘‘It stinks. .  .  . It’s not for lack of effort or lack of preparation. We’re not executing, and we’re getting out-executed.’’

And it’s painful math on top of bad math these days, with the Cubs suffering their third back injury in six days when spasms forced Baker to leave in the third inning.

Baker, who was playing second base, wrenched his back when he slipped while trying to start a double play in the first — he wound up with a throwing error instead — then tried to play through it until batting in the third. He said it’s similar to something he experienced last season and expects to miss no more than two days.

Meanwhile, the Cubs have 75 games to try to rewrite the story line for this season — or at least pen a better ending.

‘‘You can’t look at the big picture or anything like that,’’ Baker said. ‘‘We’ve just got to look at trying to win series. And without throwing around all the clichés, all we really can do is keep preparing and working.

‘‘With the talent in the room, we still think we can play better. I mean, we know we can play better. It’s just frustrating that it’s not coming out.’’

Dempster update

Right-hander Ryan Dempster, who was scratched from his start Monday with pain in his back and abdomen, said he remains optimistic he will be able to start Saturday in Pittsburgh and avoid the disabled list.

‘‘I don’t know yet,’’ he said, ‘‘but I feel a lot better today.’’

If he can’t go, the Cubs would put Dempster on the DL and recall right-hander Casey Coleman, who was sent back to Class AAA Iowa after filling in for Dempster on Monday.


Shortstop Starlin Castro, who’s in a 5-for-38 slump, got his first day off since June 8. Manager Mike Quade said he plans to give second baseman Darwin Barney, who played short in place of Castro, the day off today and might look to give first baseman Carlos Pena a day off later in the week.

◆ The Cubs recalled reliever Chris Carpenter from Iowa and put reliever Marcos Mateo (elbow) on the DL.

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