Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

wrigley scoreboard featureThe margins are so thin at this point in the year that your rooting interests (or at least the ones with which I’d agree) can change on a dime.

For example, heading into last night’s game in Pittsburgh, and even right up until Trevor Rosenthal almost blew it in the 9th, I’d think most well-reasoned Cubs fans would be pulling for the Pirates to win on the theory that the Pirates were closer to the Cardinals than the Cubs were to the Pirates, and thus the Pirates managing to tie the Cardinals by the end of the year (forcing each team to play an extra game before the loser faces the Cubs) was a more likely outcome than the Cubs managing to tie the Pirates by the end of the year (giving the Cubs home field advantage in the Wild Card Game).

But then the Pirates didn’t win. And now it’s probably best that the Cardinals just sweep them away.

After that game, and after the Cubs’ 1-0 win over the Royals, here’s where things stand:

  • The Pirates are 4.0 games behind the Cardinals with five games left to play, two of them against the Cardinals, and then three against the Reds.

  • The Cubs are 3.5 games behind the Pirates with six games left to play, three each against the Reds and Brewers.

To be quite clear, neither the Cubs nor the Pirates is likely to catch the team ahead of them with so few games remaining. But last night’s Cardinals/Pirates result probably swung the odds in the other direction, now making it slightly less likely that the Cubs could catch the Pirates than the Pirates could catch the Cardinals.

If the Cardinals complete the sweep, and the Cubs sweep the Reds, the Cubs will trail the Pirates by just a single game heading into the final series of the season. There’s a lot of ifs and maybes built into that, but it’s not inconceivable that the Cubs could still get that home Wild Card Game, which is not a zero-relevance event. Each of the Cubs and Pirates has been good on the road this year – they’re great teams, so that’s what happens – but they’ve also each been even better at home.

If the Pirates do manage to win tonight, then this all could turn once again. For today, though, I’m thinking I’ll be pulling for the Cardinals.

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