Had I thought it was remotely possible that the Cubs would go on a 21-4 streak back in June and July, I probably wouldn’t have been so casual about discarding the chance that the Cubs could come back from an, at that time, seemingly insurmountable Cardinals lead in the NL Central. Indeed, had I known in advance that the Cubs would go 21-4 in late July and August, I probably would have called for them to make huge additions at the Trade Deadline, because obviously after such a stretch, they would be within a game or two of first place or maybe already there.
Despite their absurdly hot efforts, including another win last night, the Cubs remain 6.5 games behind the Cardinals, who also won again last night. The Diamondbacks came into their home series with the Cardinals super hot, but that doesn’t matter in the face of what the Cardinals do to everyone.
Even as the Cubs have been perversely hot, their odds of winning the NL Central have remained in the barely-on-the-radar 5% range, in part because of the Cardinals, and in part because the Pirates have been just as perversely hot, gobbling up any residual chance of a divisional surprise the Cardinals have thrown off.
Speaking of the Pirates, though, they finally lost last night! To the Marlins! So that brought the Cubs back to within just 2.0 games of the top Wild Card spot. As we’ve discussed before, there is an advantage to getting the Wild Card game at home (and passing the Pirates also increases the odds of a playoff spot overall, as well as the odds of taking the NL Central), so this is not an academic discussion.
As for the rest of the Wild Card race, as I said yesterday, even a single win by the Cubs over the Giants in this series was going to severely damage the Giants’ chances of coming back to take out the Cubs. The lead is now up to 7.5 games, and, even if the Giants take today’s and tomorrow’s games, a 5.5-game deficit as the calendar is about to turn to September is tough to overcome.
Of course, here I am hoping the Cubs can do it with a 6.5-game deficit in the NL Central, so you never know.