With the new week upon us, it’s time to check back in with the races impacting the Chicago Cubs.
What, you thought that just because the Cubs had clinched the NL Central that nothing else going on mattered?
Although the Cubs have guaranteed themselves a trip to the NLDS by winning the NL Central, it is yet to be determined who they’ll face in that matchup. Will it be one of the other division winners – increasingly looking to be the Dodgers or Nationals – or will it be whichever currently-limping team wins the NL Wild Card Game? With the top record in the NL, the Cubs are currently in position to face the latter, which would be a great deal more attractive.*
The Cubs lost yesterday, again, to the Brewers, but thankfully so did the Nationals, who are chasing the Cubs for the best record in the NL. Those Nationals remain 6.0 games behind the Cubs, with just 13 games left to play. Given that the Cubs hold the tiebreaker by virtue of the head-to-head record this year, passing the Cubs will be virtually impossible for the Nationals. The Cubs’ magic number to clinch the best record is 8 by the usual calculation, though, again, because they hold the tiebreaker, it’s actually just 7.
Meanwhile, the Mets won again, push them ahead of the Giants for the top Wild Card spot in the NL. Those Giants have lost two in a row (to the Cardinals), are skidding through one of the worst second halves in recent memory, and are now a full game behind the Mets. They are still in Wild Card position, though, a game ahead of the Cardinals. This is going to be one heck of a race down the stretch, and you are reminded that a three-way tie would not be the worst thing in the world.
The Nationals today head to Miami to begin a three-game set against the Marlins. The Cardinals play the Rockies at Coors Field, the Mets host the Braves, and the Giants go to Los Angeles for a divisional do-or-die series against the Dodgers. If the Giants sweep that series, they’ll be within 2.0 games of the Dodgers in the NL West, and maybe our conversations in this space change a bit. Otherwise, we’ll still be tracking the Giants as a possible Wild Card team, rather than a divisional winner.
*(There was a time when the idea of the Cubs facing the Mets in a short series would have terrified me, but with Matt Harvey and now Jacob deGrom done for the season, and with Steven Matz possibly broken, the Mets’ pitching staff is much less intimidating than it would have been earlier this year. Yes, Noah Syndergaard remains an absolute beast, but you’d have to believe the Mets would want him going in the Wild Card Game, which means if they won and went on to face the Cubs, he’d be available to start just one of the five games in the NLDS.)