For the 9th time in a row, and the 15th time in their last 16 games (my mind is boggled by that streak), the Chicago Cubs won last night. And it’s good that they did, because each the main teams against whom the Cubs are competing for various playoff spots also won.
First, there are the Cardinals, who are 11-4 in their last 15 games. They won again last night over the Marlins, who aren’t going to be helping anyone these days. They still hold a 6.0 game advantage over the Pirates in the NL Central, and a 7.5 game lead over the Cubs. At least they’ve got a slightly tougher stretch of games coming up, with series against the Giants (twice), Diamondbacks, Nationals, and Pirates before facing the Cubs again.
Those Pirates also won, beating the Mets 5-3, though it took them 14 innings to do it. They’ve still got the top Wild Card spot by 1.5 games over the Cubs. Outside of a four-gamer against the Giants and a three-gamer against the Cardinals, the Pirates have a really comfy, cozy stretch until mid-September.
Those Mets would be five games behind the Cubs if they were in the Wild Card race, but they’re not, because they still have a 4.5 game lead over the Nationals in the East. That’s because the Nationals lost again to the Giants. They’re now a mere .500 team, just a half-game better than the Diamondbacks. They’re 9.5 games back of the Cubs for the second Wild Card, so, realistically, it’s NL East or bust for them.
That leaves those Giants, then, as the last realistic competitor for the Cubs/Pirates. They’re still 4.5 games back of the Cubs, and, as you can see from their name being mentioned quite a bit in the preceding paragraphs, they’ll factor heavily into the NL Central race (and, by extension, the Wild Card race) in the coming weeks. They’re 2.5 games back of the Dodgers in the NL West.