With the Cubs' loss to the Cardinals Sunday afternoon, any thoughts about a late run to the division title pretty much ended. I can think of just two teams that blew leads similar to the one the Cardinals now have, this late in the year: the famous 1964 Phillies, who led by 6½ games with 12 remaining, and the 2007 Mets, who led by seven games with 17 remaining.
The Cubs trail by six with 13 left, and don't play the Cardinals again in the regular season. Thus I think it's time to turn our attention to the wild-card race, where there's still a very good chance that the Cubs could take over the top spot and host the wild-card game. They trail the Pirates by two games and play them three more times, and remember that they don't need to pass Pittsburgh, only tie them, to get home field.
Here are the remaining schedules for the three top teams in the National League:
Cubs (13: 7 home, 6 road)
Pirates (13: 6 home, 7 road)
at Rockies (4), at Cubs (3), Cardinals (3), Reds (3)
Cardinals (13: 7 home, 6 road)
Reds (3), Brewers (4), at Pirates (3), at Braves (3)
The Cubs have nine games remaining against teams with losing records and four against teams with winning records. Obviously, that doesn't specifically correlate with winning and losing games, but at this point I would be disappointed if the Cubs don't go 9-4 the rest of the way. That would leave them with 96 wins, matching their second-best total since 1945 (they also won 96 in 1984).
If the Cubs go 9-4, they'd tie the Pirates at 96 wins if Pittsburgh goes 7-6. The Pirates have a bit tougher schedule than the Cubs, playing the Cardinals and Cubs. The Pirates do have the Cardinals at PNC Park, where they are a much better team (50-25) than on the road (39-35). The Pirates are 5-2 against the Cardinals at home so far this year. Meanwhile, the Cubs have won four of six from the Pirates at Wrigley in 2015.
The real wild card, so to speak, for the Pirates is their trip to Colorado. The Rockies' season ended long ago, but they have won six of their last nine games and would certainly love to play spoiler to the Pirates.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, would have to continue their mediocre September (7-10) to avoid winning 100 games. They need go just 7-6 over their final 13 games to get to the century mark in victories, and considering they play the woeful Braves the last three games, it shouldn't be too difficult. The Cardinals are 11-4 against the Brewers so far this year and 9-7 against the Reds.
The Pirates sit this morning where the Cubs had hoped to be: four games behind St. Louis with 13 remaining. Since they play the Cardinals three more times, they do have hope of catching them for the division title. Would you rather see the Cubs play the Pirates in the wild-card game or the Cardinals? Also, if the Pirates and Cardinals tie for the division title, they'd have to have a tiebreaker game to determine the division champion, something that could benefit the Cubs as that would be an extra game for both pitching staffs.
Hang on, everyone. This ride is about to get a lot faster.