Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

wrigley scoreboard featureThe NL Wild Card picture is becoming slightly more clear. Only slightly.

With another win last night, the New York Mets have created a 1.5-game buffer for the top Wild Card spot, which means their magic number to clinch one of the two Wild Card spots is down to just two with a weekend’s worth of action left. Their playoff odds are approaching 90%, so you can nearly lock them in as one of the Wild Cards.

The good news there, as far as the Cubs are concerned, is what we discussed in this space yesterday: if the Mets clinch early, they can avoid using Noah Syndergaard again until the Wild Card Game. Then, if they win that game and move on to play the Cubs in the NLDS (revenge!), he will not be available to start twice in the series. Given the tattered Mets rotation, that’s huge.

As for that other Wild Card spot, neither the Giants nor the Cardinals particularly want it, both losing last night (the Cardinals even had the tying run on third base in the 9th inning with no outs against the Reds and still lost). The Cardinals remain a game behind the Giants. If the two end up tied for that second spot, they’d have to play a tiebreaker game before the Wild Card Game, which is now the scenario I’m rooting for, because it would likely mean both of Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto would have had to pitch in the week running up to the start of the NLDS, and neither could realistically pitch twice in the NLDS (at least not on regular rest).

You’ll notice that I rarely discuss the Cardinals’ starters when getting into this stuff, though maybe I should, since, for example, the difference between Carlos Martinez and the pitchers at the back of the rotation is potentially significant. The tricky thing for me is I’m not sure which pitchers the Cardinals would use in do-or-die games. The veteran in Adam Wainwright? The potentially dominating youngster in Alex Reyes? The other thing is, none of those pitchers are quite on the same level as Syndergaard, Bumgarner, and Cueto, each of whom is one of the clear top 10 starters in the entire NL.

In other words, when it comes to the Cardinals lining up starting pitchers, I simply don’t worry about it in the same way as the other teams. Whatever happens happens.

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