The road to the playoffs is paved with a soft schedule
The Cubs did the hard work and got back in it, now let's look at everybody else
In the lead up to the trade deadline last week the Cubs were teetering on an edge where a good run of play would keep them in third place in the NL Central and fifth place in the hunt for one of the three wild card spots. A bad run of play and they’d be hanging out with the Cardinals and Pirates, and nobody wants to hang out with those guys.
The Cubs played well, no, they played very well, and not only did they convince Jed Hoyer, their President of “Sorry Tom we’ll have to pay these guys for six months instead of four” to not sell off players like Cody Bellinger, he actually traded for two more.
The schedule toughened with a seven game home stand against the then first place Reds, and the best team in baseball, the Atlanta Barves, and what do you know? Not only did the Cubs not immediately make Jed look like a fool for believing in them, they went 5-2 and as we wake up today they are effectively tied for second place in the division and for the third wild card spot with the Reds.
They are percentage points ahead of the Reds, one game better in the “all important” loss column. If they were actually tied with them and the season ended today (it would be a huge surprise to everyone and nobody would have their ceremonial bunting hung up), the Reds would go to the playoffs as the third wild card team because there are no more play-in games. The tiebreaker is head to head record and with four games to play (all in Cincinnati the first week of September) the Reds have a 5-4 edge. So the Cubs will need to win three of four to wrestle that advantage away.
Although, given how awfully the Reds are pitching now, it’s hard to believe it’ll actually matter.
But that one example shows how important all of these games are.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Pointless Exercise to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.