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The Cubs could have made this easy
But "easy's" not really their thing
The Cubs clinched a playoff spot on Tuesday night in the most Cubs’ way ever. They did it because another team lost. When Washington Nationals’ immortal Yadiel Hernandez walked-off the Phillies in the second game of a doubleheader sweep, it meant that the Cubs could not finish with worse than the eighth best record in the National League. As you know, MLB Commissioner Tob Manford* SuperSized the playoff field this year from five teams in each league to eight, and as a result, even if the Cubs didn’t win another game from Wednesday until the last day of the season on Sunday they would be in.
And, they have taken that to heart. At the moment Hernandez homered the Cubs were trailing the Pirates 2-0. Not long after, Anthony Rizzo tied the game at two with an eighth inning homer. Hey! The Cubs, knowing they were in were about to go on a run and enter the playoffs super hot. Right?
Well. Once the glow of Yadiel’s blast truly wore off the Cubs were outscored 10-1 and lost three in a row to Pissburgh, quite possibly the worst team in recent baseball history.
The Cubs currently have a three game lead over the Reds and 2.5 over the Cardinals with three games to play. Well, the Cardinals actually have six games to play, which fucks this whole thing up—naturally. If the Cubs lose all three to the Sox (seems doable) and the Reds sweep the Twins (seems not doable) the teams would both finish 32-28. The Cubs own the tiebreaker over the Reds. They won the season series over Cincinnati 6-4 and their inter-division record is 22-18, while the Reds went 21-19.
So, only the Cardinals can still finish ahead of the Cubs in the division.
Why is the Cubs magic number three when the Cardinals could still have six more games left to play?
If they go 5-1 to finish the season and the Cubs get swept, the Cardinals win the Central by a game over the Cubs.
If they go 4-2 to finish the season, St. Louis can only win the division if they have the tiebreaker over the Cubs. Huh? Finishing 4-2 if the Cubs lose the rest of their games would leave the teams tied at 32-28. They split their season series 5-5, so the inter-division tiebreaker would determine who gets the title. There are no tiebreaker games in 2020. The Cardinals six remaining games are four more with Milwaukee (in three days) and two, if needed, against Detroit on Monday.
To get the tiebreaker they need to win three more games against Milwaukee. That would top the Cubs with a 23-17 record in the division. Two wins against Milwaukee leaves them tied with the Cubs at 22-18.
OK, well what would happen then?
The third divisional tiebreaker are the teams’ records in their last 20 division games. Here’s where this whole thing gets complicated, and the Pirates play a huge part in who wins the division. But not for the reason you probably think.
The Cubs went a whopping 10-10 in division games to finish the season. The Cardinals are currently 11-9. If they go 2-2 in the final four game series with Milwaukee they remain 11-9 in their last 20 division games and win the division. If they go 1-3 they fall to 10-10 like the Cubs.
How do you break that tie? You go back to the teams’ 21st most recent division game. For the Cubs that’s a 4-2 win in the second game of a doubleheader on August 19 against…the Cardinals! Whoo! So that’s it! Cubs are in thanks to that win in the middle of August. It was a division clincher and they didn’t even know it!
That is the Cubs 21st most recent division game, but not the Cardinals’ 21st most recent division game. Theirs was August 31 against the Reds and they won 7-5. So now the teams are both 11-10 in their last 21.
Still tied. You go back to the 22nd most recent division game. The Cubs lost to the Cardinals in the first game of that doubleheader 9-3. That would make the Cubs 11-11 and the Cardinals 12-10, right? Well, no. Because the Cardinals 22nd most recent division game still isn’t the same as the Cubs. The Cardinals lost to the Pirates in the second game of another doubleheader on August 27. So, the teams are both 11-11 in their last 22 division games.
OK, what’s next? For the Cubs it’s a game on August 18, against the Cardinals. Yu Darvish beat Daniel Ponce de Leon, 6-3. The Cubs are 12-11 in their last 23 division games. For the Cardinals? Let’s go to the first game of that August 27 doubleheader. Surely, they didn’t get swept by the Pirates did they?
Oh, they did. In extras. Tied at one, John Gant allowed three runs in the top of the eighth. The Cardinals rallied and pulled to within 4-3 with annoying little Harrison Bader pinch running at third base for Paul Goldschmidt with only one out. But Richard Rodriguez struck out both Brad Miller and Max Shrock (who?) to end it.
So…after all of that fancy figuring, the reason the magic number is three for the Cubs to win the division is because they own the THIRD tiebreaker over the Cardinals, and while we hope the Cardinals have to go to Detroit just for the sheer inconvenience of it for them, anything short of two wins over the Brewers this weekend ends their division title hopes. The Cubs could, you know, actually win a game or two and seal things up sooner.
With just three days (well, four if the Cardinals need it) the Cubs could end up seeded second, third, fifth or sixth in the National League. They could host the first round or they could be on the road. They could face any team left in the hunt except the Dodgers or Barves. If the Cardinals pass them, it could very well mean the Cubs drop to the fifth seed and go to San Diego. Can you imagine the carnage?
There’s also the chance that by “winning” the division they could end up with a tougher first round opponent than if they finish second.
Say they are the third seed and the Reds are the sixth? You’d much rather face Cincinnati in any round other than the best two of three Wild Card round.
Regardless, given the lethargy of the offense, which is a far too common September occurrence for this team, does it really who or where they play? Chances are, no matter the opponent, the Cubs play Wednesday and Thursday and then go home. A fitting end to a meaningless, terrifying and confounding season.
The 2-0 Bears haven't exactly dominated in victory and find themselves 3.5-point road underdogs to the 0-2 Falcons in Week 3. If you are looking to check out the odds as they fluctuate on the go, some Illinois betting apps are specific to the state. Which really is essential for Bears and Cubs bettors, the spread actually opened at a field goal and has been bet up. Similarly, Chicago's moneyline opened at +145 but is now as long as +170, while the total has gone from 47 to 48.
The Falcons are fresh off one of the all-time fourth quarter collapses, something they specialize in almost as expertly as the Cubs do at not hitting at the end of seasons.
The Bears have benefitted greatly so far from their opponents a) being the Lions and Giants, and b) having their best players get hurt. Well, look at the Falcons injury report.
You don’t have to be good, the other team just has to be injured.
Kyle and I talked about the Cubs glory ride into the postseason and I butchered the tiebreaker scenario so thoroughly that I had to re-record that section. I’m sure you’ll be impressed.
Mike D. and I did that thing where we “Remember This Crap” in a fun-filled hour where we remembered embarrassing Falcons’ coaches, revisited a humiliating day for the Falcons at Soldier(s) Field, an equally embarrassing day for the Bears in the Georgia Dome, we made fun of Jim L. Mora and Bobby Petrino’s weird exits from the team, and helmet cars!