The Chicago Cubs have a playoff spot wrapped up, but now they have their eyes on the next prize, as they’ll continue to push for the National League Central Division title.
The Cubs, who lost last night in walkoff fashion to the Pittsburgh Pirates, are still well in control of their own destiny when it comes to that crown, but they will need to win a few more games as the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers still have an outside chance of catching them in the standings.
Here is where things stand going into Wednesday’s action:
The Cubs’ Magic Number: 3
The Cubs have clinched a playoff spot, but they still have a little work to do if they want to wrap up the Central Division crown this week.
Unfortunately, a Cubs win Wednesday would not result in that title, even if the Cardinals lose their game against the Royals. That is because Major League Baseball will use winning percentage to break any theoretical ties between the Cubs and Cardinals, and if the Cubs wrap up their season at 33-27 and the Cardinals finish at 32-26, the Cardinals would narrowly win that battle with a .552 winning percentage, compared to .550 for the Cubs.
With that in mind, any combination of three Cubs wins and Cardinals losses would do the trick for Chicago, guaranteeing them a top-three seed in the National League Central.
If the Season Ended Today….
The Phillies have fallen out of a playoff spot after getting swept in a doubleheader Tuesday at the hands of the Washington Nationals, with the Milwaukee Brewers now vaulting into the eighth-seed slot in the National League.
That would pit the Brewers against the Dodgers.
The Atlanta Braves moved ahead of the Cubs thanks to their win Tuesday, and they would face the Cincinnati Reds in the 2-7 matchup.
The Cubs would face the Miami Marlins in the 3-6 matchup if the season ended today, with the Marlins currently holding the second spot from the National League East.
The St. Louis Cardinals have jumped up to the five seed, and would take on the San Diego Padres if the season were to end today.
Surprisingly, if that structure were to hold, the National League Central could potentially put four teams into the National League Division Series if all four were to win their wild card round series.
Kyle Hendricks is set to take the mound for the Cubs on Wednesday night as they play their third game of their series with the Pirates. A Cubs win would set the stage for them to potentially clinch the Central Division crown as early as Thursday.
The Brewers and Reds will play again up in Milwaukee, with a Milwaukee loss likely being the preferred outcome for the Cubs, as they’ve already guaranteed that the Reds will be unable to surpass them in the standings.
The Cardinals will wrap up their series with the Kansas City Royals, paving the way for their five-game weekend series against the Brewers to wrap up the regular season.
The Braves, currently ahead of the Cubs in the standings, will battle the Marlins in Atlanta.