What to Know
The Cubs' division lead entering September (15 games) is their largest since 1907, the year they won their first World Series title.
They also are 38 games above .500 now, their highest-mark since the 1945 season, the last year they made it to the World Series.
Welcome to Cubs Playoff Watch, your daily look at the Chicago Cubs as they continue to push toward their first division title since the 2008 season.
Cubs’ Magic Number: 16
The Cubs went into their series with the Pittsburgh Pirates hoping to cool off a red-hot team, and that’s exactly what they’ve done as they notched a 6-5 win on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field, capping off a three-game sweep of the Bucs.
The victory not only gave the Cubs their third straight win, but it also enabled them to make a bit of history to boot. With the win, the Cubs are now 85-47 on the season, and they are now 38 games above .500. They haven’t been that many games over the break even mark since the 1945 season, which also happens to be the last time they reached the World Series.
The Cubs also find themselves with a 15-game lead in the National League Central as September begins, thanks to the St. Louis Cardinals’ 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday. That division lead is the biggest the Cubs have had entering the final month of the season since the 1907 campaign, when they led the New York Giants by 18 games.
Oh, and by the way: the Cubs also won their first World Series that year.
Magic Number to Clinch Home-Field Advantage: 23
While the Cubs are drawing tantalizingly close to clinching the Central Division, home-field advantage is a much slower mountain to climb. That’s because the Washington Nationals keep on winning, and they did so again on Wednesday as they knocked off the Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 to complete a three-game sweep in the City of Brotherly Love.
Gio Gonzalez pitched six innings of one-run ball, and the Nationals’ bullpen did the rest as a home run by Jayson Werth provided the big blow in yet another Washington victory.
With the win, the Nationals are now nine games clear of the New York Mets in the National League East, sporting one of the best road records in the league and the second-best run differential in all of baseball, behind only the Cubs in that category with a plus-141 to their credit.
The Cubs left the Pirates two and a half games out of the second National League wild card spot with their sweep at Wrigley, and they’ll look to continue having an impact in that race as they welcome the San Francisco Giants to the Friendly Confines for the first of a four-game series on Thursday night.
The Cubs will send pitcher Mike Montgomery to the hill as they look to win their fourth straight game. Opposing Montgomery will be former Cubs standout Jeff Samardzija, who is trying to help lead the Giants back to the playoffs after the team missed the postseason in 2015.
Meanwhile, the Nationals and the Cardinals will both be off on Thursday before they resume their playoff push on Friday. The Nationals will head to New York to take on the Mets, who are just one and a half games out of the second wild card spot in the NL, while the Cardinals will continue their road trip with a night game in Cincinnati against the Reds.