The Cubs clinched a playoff spot despite the loss last night. Clinching the division and sorting out their offense remain on the to-do list, and they've got five games left in which to scratch off those tasks. Two games remain in Pittsburgh and the series stands 1-1.
With last night's shutout victory, the Cubs (32-22) are now 4.5 games ahead of the virtually tied Cardinals and Reds. They'll call up Jose Quintana for his first start (and third appearance) of 2020. Meanwhile, Bryant is out with an oblique injury and Rex Brothers is sent down to make room for Quintana. 6 total games remain and the Cubs' magic number stands at 4 (because the Cards have 9 games left).
The Cubs dropped the last two Wrigley games for the 2020 series and their offense remained in what feels like a season-long slump. Their lead over the Cardinals stands a 3.5 with 7 Cubs games remaining. They'll defend their lead on the road beginning with a 4-game series against the distant last-place team in the NL Central.
With only 10 games remaining, the Cubs (30-20) start this series 5.5 up in the division. The Twins (31-21) roll into Wrigley in second place in the AL central but with a record equally as impressive as the Cubs'. They are still in striking distance of the first place White Sox, whom the Cubs will face in the season's 3 final games. Given their sizeable lead in the division, these last 10 games will likely have lost some drama. However, this is also an important stretch for key offensive players who have floundered most of the season, a bullpen that has only recently found reasonable footing, and a rotation with two consistent performers at the top and some major variables behind them. See below for the weekend's match-ups.
With first place still in their possession and an Alec Mills no-hitter under their belt, the Cubs return to Wrigley to take on the first of several AL central opponents. Cleveland comes into the series in third place, 5 games out of first and 2 games out of second. The Cubs begin the series 4 games up in the division.
The Cubs staged a 9th inning come-from-behind victory against Josh Hader last night to even the series at 1-1. That victory also pushed the Brewers to 5 back in the division and held the Cardinals at 3 back. Heyward was the hero, smashing a go-ahead 3-run homer and Vargas followed up with an solo shot for insurance prompting me to wonder if Vargas might actually be good for something on a team stacked with 2nd base depth. Meanwhile, Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs' bullpen deserve credit for keeping the game close for 8 innings, and Kimbrel managed to close it out in the 9th. Perhaps the offense can lead the way today and take some pressure off of a Cubs' bullpen that has been surprisingly effective in September.