We all kinda said it when the schedule for the 2020 season dropped: hey, the Cubs are playing the White Sox in the final series – wouldn’t it be crazy if they were both trying to win their divisions and it all came down to that series?
It sounded funny at the time. Now? I’m like … ah, shit.
Thanks to an inability to even split a four-game series against the worst team in baseball, the Cubs find themselves entering the final weekend of play with an actual chance of losing this division. I would never have said that felt impossible a couple weeks ago, because Cubs, but I certainly wouldn’t have bet on it. Heck, even the projection systems all had the Cubs at 99.9% to win the division. Now? It’s down to 91.3%. That’s how much damage they’ve done.
Credit to the Cardinals, too, since none of this would’ve been possible without the Cubs tanking *AND* the Cardinals playing reasonably well despite a brutal (self-made) schedule. The Cardinals have not had an off-day in over two weeks, and have played 19 games in just 15 days. They’ve managed to win 10 of those games, including six of their last eight. That’s impressive. Period. Hate the Cardinals all you want, but it just is. The whole thing stands in stark contrast to how the Cubs are currently in wilt mode, losing five of their last six.
So now it comes down to the Cubs and the Cardinals in the Central, with the Cardinals bumping the Brewers from that race last night. And, in turn, it all comes down to this damn series against the White Sox.
The White Sox, by the way, have choked away their own division lead. Just five days ago, they were up 3.0 in the AL Central. Five straight losses later, they’re down a game to the Twins.
So, basically, one of the Cubs or the White Sox is going to have to flip the narrative by default. One team will “put a stop to their skid,” while the other will “limp into the playoffs.”
Strictly speaking, the Cubs can still clinch the Central despite losing this series. The magic number is three, and the Cardinals have four games left against the Brewers, starting with a doubleheader today. Then, the Cardinals have a makeup doubleheader against the Tigers on Monday if necessary. But obviously you’d much rather take the division by, you know, winning some effing games. Doing it against the White Sox would certainly be gravy.
But, as far as nightmare scenarios go, this is the perfect storm: the Cubs could collapse in September, getting passed by the Cardinals (of all teams) because they got swept by the White Sox (of all teams), who came back and clinched their own division in the process.