Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

wrigley scoreboard featureThe Chicago Cubs are really good, and manager Joe Maddon indicated they were not going to take the foot off the gas in this weekend’s series against the St. Louis Cardinals, regardless of the standings. The Cardinals are still in a playoff race, and the Cubs were going to “play it straight.”

So they did, and that meant a series loss for the Cardinals at a critical time. Thus, instead of being alone at the top of the Wild Card heap, the Cardinals are alone on the outside looking in, 0.5 games out.

The Mets managed to beat the Phillies, while the Giants lost again to the Padres. That puts the Mets a game clear of the Giants, who are 0.5 games ahead of the Cardinals.

I know that when folks around here think about historic collapses, they tend to think about the 1969 Cubs, who lost a 9.0-game lead in mid-August/a 5.0-game lead as late as September 3 (though the reason it’s remembered as historic is because they didn’t just lose those leads, they also wound up a whopping 8.0 games BEHIND the Mets). They also probably think about the 2011 Red Sox, whose disastrous September cost them a 9.0-game lead in the Wild Card race as of September 3, and ultimate led to Theo Epstein’s departure in favor of the Cubs. But this Giants collapse, if it happens, will be right up there, even if over a longer time horizon. This was a team that had *the best record in baseball* at the All-Star break, and now might miss the playoffs entirely by posting *the worst record in baseball* after the All-Star break. It’s truly remarkable. Of course, if they can just play .500 ball over this final week, perhaps they’ll still squeak in.

The Giants won’t play today, starting a series against the Rockies at home tomorrow night. The Cardinals host the Reds tonight, and the Mets head to Miami for a game that would have been Jose Fernandez’s last of the season. Those match-ups probably favor the Cardinals and Mets, and the Giants get the Dodgers to end the season (Mets get Phillies, Cardinals get Pirates). Rebuilding and resting clubs could factor hugely into this Wild Card race.

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