Cubs vs. Astros Preview, Sunday 10/3, 1:05 CT: And Then There Was One

The winner of today's game finishes in fourth place in the NL Central; the loser finishes fifth. Personally, I say win every single game you can and finish this season with a sweep of the Astros. The difference in drafting position next June just isn't that big a deal, and teams should never tank a game for this reason.

As far as the rest of baseball is concerned, there's other jockeying for position that will mean much for the playoffs. There are four possible outcomes for the Braves, Padres and Giants today; two of them result in at least a one-game playoff.

  • If the Padres and Braves both win, there will be a three-way tie between the Giants, Braves and Padres at 91 victories. That would result in the Padres and Giants playing off the NL West title in San Diego tomorrow; the loser of that game would then go to Atlanta Tuesday to play off the wild card. And then, the winner of that wild card tiebreaker goes to Philadelphia to begin the division series on Wednesday -- meaning in this scenario, a team could possibly play four games in four different cities on four consecutive days.
  • If the Padres lose and the Braves lose, the Giants are NL West champions and the Padres go to Atlanta Monday for a one-game playoff for the wild card.
  • If the Padres win and the Braves lose, the Braves are eliminated; there would be no playoff game since the Giants and Padres would both qualify. San Diego would be the NL West champion and San Francisco the wild card because the Padres won the season series from the Giants; no tiebreaker if this happens. This also creates a scenario where the Giants would be celebrating even though they lost.
  • If the Padres lose and the Braves win, the Padres are eliminated; the Giants would be NL West champions and the Braves would be the wild card, no tiebreaker in this scenario either.

Hope that clears it up. We've got a 50% chance of at least one tiebreaker game and a 25% chance of two of them.

Also today, the Yankees and Rays go into the final day tied for the AL East lead at 95-66. The Rays hold the tiebreaker, so if they win, they're AL East champions. Here are the four scenarios for AL playoff seedings/matchups:

Rays defeat Royals, Yankees defeat Red Sox: Twins host Yankees, Rays host Rangers
Rays defeat Royals, Red Sox defeat Yankees: Twins host Yankees, Rays host Rangers
Royals defeat Rays, Red Sox defeat Yankees: Twins host Yankees, Rays host Rangers
Royals defeat Rays, Yankees defeat Red Sox: Twins host Rays, Yankees host Rangers

Enjoy this final day. It is, as far as I can tell, the only time in major league history when three teams have come down to the final day of the season with a chance to have a three-way tie for postseason spots. The 1967 American League came down to the last day with three teams all with a chance to win or tie (Red Sox, Twins, Tigers), but since the Red Sox and Twins were tied and playing each other, the only chance for a tie was two-way. Had the Tigers swept their doubleheader, they would have tied with the winner of the Twins/Red Sox game. But when Detroit lost game one, the winner of the Twins/Red Sox game got the pennant -- Boston won, for their first pennant in 21 years.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Ryan Dempster
Ryan Dempster
Cubs
vs. Nelson Figueroa
Nelson Figueroa
Astros
15-11 W-L 4-3
3.83 ERA 3.54
201 SO 50
85 BB 23
24 HR 9
vs. Hou -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Ryan Dempster 15-11 34 33 1 0 0 0 209.1 189 106 89 24 85 201 3.83 1.31


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Nelson Figueroa 4-3 17 9 0 0 0 0 61.0 58 28 24 9 23 50 3.54 1.33

Nelson Figueroa is a last-minute substitution for Wandy Rodriguez, originally scheduled to start today; Rodriguez was scratched with back spasms. Figueroa started for the Astros against the Cubs on September 7 at Wrigley Field and got the win, even while giving up six hits, three walks and three runs in five innings. He also made a relief appearance vs. the Cubs in Houston in July. Aramis Ramirez is 6-for-16 with two HR against him; maybe A-Ram can hit another one today.

Ryan Dempster is 1-0, 3.79 in three starts against the Astros this year. He's had another solid season and would love to finish the year strong and post his 16th win. That would put him in a five-way tie with Derek Lowe, Tim Lincecum, Chris Carpenter and Tim Hudson for fifth place in wins in the NL this year. Current Astros are hitting .335 against Dempster (65-for-194) with six home runs, so he'll have to be on his best game today.

Today's game is on CSN Chicago and FSN Houston. Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Astros site Crawfish Boxes.

Today's first pitch thread will be up at 1 pm CDT and the overflows will post at 2 pm, 3 pm and 3:45 pm CDT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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