The Cubs magic number is down to 5, and everyone in the Central has now been eliminated except for those damn redbirds, but that could change as early as Wednesday. The Cubs head to St. Louis to kick off a 3-game series Monday, and if the Cubs were to sweep the series, that would put a nice little cherry on top of the sundae that is winning the NL Central. The thought of clinching at Bush Stadium on just September 14th is something that I could only dream up on the best of nights. Now, this will only happen if the Cubs sweep the series, but how sweet would that be?
If the Cubs don’t happen to sweep the Cards this week, the North-Siders will take on the Brewers at home with a chance to close it out. This wouldn’t be a bad way to clinch either, as it would be great to do in front of the home fans at Wrigley.
Since the Cubs have almost certainly (knock on wood) locked up the division title, it is time to take a look ahead to the playoffs. This week , Joe Maddon did some shuffling around with the starting rotation to get ready for the playoffs, and Jake Arrieta has been bumped down. He has been a bit inconsistent lately (still having a 2.91 ERA, struggling might be an overstatement), and thus Maddon has moved him down in the rotation. As it stands right now, the Cubs would be going with Jon Lester (16-4, 2.51 ERA), Kyle Hendricks (14-7, 2.07 ERA), Jake Arrieta (17-6, 2.91 ERA), and John Lackey (9-8, 3.35 ERA) in the rotation in the playoffs with the absolutely struggling Jason Hammel (14-8, 3.50 ERA) probably being left off the roster. This is, of course, all speculation since there is still about a month left until the playoffs begin, so we still have some time to see how it all will shake out, especially regarding the rest of the playoff roster.
Now, let’s take a look at the N.L. Wild Card race.
As it stands right now, the Giants (77-65) and the Mets (76-67) would be playing in the 1 game playoff, but the race is certainly not over. While one of these 2 teams is extremely likely to make, there is a 3rd team in the race, and of course it is the St. Louis Cardinals. They currently sit at 75-67, a half game back of the Mets for the 2nd spot and 2 games out for the top spot, and I can’t help but feel like they are going to make it to the playoffs. Why? Because they are the freaking Cardinals. Why wouldn’t they squeak into the playoffs with a possibility of facing the Cubs in the divisional round? The last time the Cards missed the playoffs was 2010, and I can’t help but feel like they will make it yet again this year.
As for the last regular season match up with the Cards, the Cubs will send Hendricks, Hammel, and Lester to the mound to face off against Leake, Garcia, and Martinez of the Cardinals. Tonight’s game (Monday) can be caught on CSN in Chicago or MLB Network if you, like me, live out of market. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15. Go Cubs!