Despite losing to the Chicago White Sox on Saturday, the Chicago Cubs still clinched the National League Central Division title, locking themselves into the third seed in the NL playoffs.
As a result, the Cubs will host the Wild Card round series at Wrigley Field beginning on Wednesday, but as of the final day of the season, the team has no idea who they will play in that series.
As we head into the final day of the baseball season (at least what is currently scheduled to be the final day of the season), here is where things stand for the Cubs in terms of their potential playoff opponents:
By far the most likely scenario at this point would be that the Marlins will be the team to play the Cubs in the first round, as they are currently in the sixth seed spot in the National League.
A St. Louis Cardinals win on Sunday over the Milwaukee Brewers would lock the Marlins into that spot no matter what they do in their final game of the season against the New York Yankees, and would set a course for Miami to take on the Cubs for the first time since the 2003 National League Championship Series.
St. Louis Cardinals
If the Cardinals lose on Sunday, it could potentially open a Pandora’s box of complications for their playoff chances. There are multiple scenarios in which the Cardinals would have to play at least one game against the Detroit Tigers on Monday at Comerica Park, but they all start with the Cardinals losing on Sunday to the Brewers.
For example, if the Cardinals lose and the San Francisco Giants win their game against the San Diego Padres on Sunday, then the Cardinals would have to go to Detroit for that doubleheader. The Cardinals would then have to win a game against the Tigers to clinch a playoff berth.
There are also several permutations where the Cardinals would end up playing the Cubs in the first round of the postseason, but again, all of them involve the Cardinals losing on Sunday.
For example, if the Marlins and Giants both win their games on Sunday, and if the Reds and Cardinals both lose, then the Marlins would be locked into the fifth seed, and the Cardinals would be forced to travel to Detroit for Monday.
If the Cardinals were to then win the first game of their scheduled doubleheader with the Tigers, then the Cardinals would earn the sixth seed in the NL, and would then play the Cubs.
Confused yet? Jeff Jones of the Belleville News-Democrat did his best to lay out all the potential scenarios for Sunday:
There is still an outside chance that the Cubs could play the Reds in the first round of the postseason, but again, it would involve a lot of chaos.
If the Reds win on Sunday against the Minnesota Twins, and if the Cardinals and the Giants both lose, then the Cardinals would drop into the eighth seed spot in the playoff race, and the Reds would jump into sixth, setting them up for a game against the Cubs.
Big Picture Scenarios:
To break it down as simply as we can, here are the main scenarios to watch in the National League on Sunday:
-The winner of the Brewers/Cardinals game clinches a playoff berth. If it’s the Cardinals, they get the fifth seed and the Cubs will play the Marlins in the first round. If it’s the Brewers, chaos could potentially reign, as we’ve discussed.
-If the Brewers lose to the Cardinals, the Giants can get into the playoffs by winning their game against the Padres.
-If the Brewers and Giants both lose, then the Phillies can get in by beating the Tampa Bay Rays.