The Cubs made the postseason four times over the 10 seasons previous to this one (2007-16). In only one of those seasons did they have anything resembling a September race: 2007, when they had to hold off the Brewers over the last couple of weeks, finally clinching the division title on the season’s final Friday. The 2008 Cubs’ lead in September never dropped below four games. In 2015 they entered September with a 6½-game lead over the Giants in the wild-card race and went 23-9 from September 1 through season’s end, and of course last year they coasted through September with a lead that never dropped below 15½ games.
This year, then, is something we haven’t seen in a decade: an actual September pennant race for the Cubs.
I do believe they will prevail, but they have to start playing better than they did over the weekend, and they also have to in particular win the games against the teams chasing them, the Brewers and Cardinals.
Here are the remaining schedules for the three teams. Home games in boldface.
Cubs (19 games: nine home, 10 road)
Mets (3), Cardinals (3), at Rays (2), at Brewers (4), at Cardinals (4), Reds (3)
Brewers (19 games: 10 home, nine road)
Pirates (3), at Marlins (3), at Pirates (3), Cubs (4), Reds (3), at Cardinals (3)
Cardinals (19 games: 10 home, nine road)
Reds (3), at Cubs (3), at Reds (3), at Pirates (3), Cubs (4), Brewers (4)
That’s really about as even as you could imagine between the three teams. Each has a couple of what might be seen as “easy” series against bad teams (though of course that doesn’t always work out that way!). They all still have games remaining against each other, though the Cubs have the most such games — 11 of their remaining 19 games are against the teams chasing them.
Thus those teams have chances to catch the Cubs. On the other hand, that gives the Cubs the best chance to send those teams home for the winter by simply defeating them head-to-head, especially the Cardinals, who still have seven games remaining against the Cubs. The Cubs are 8-4 vs. St. Louis so far this year.
The home/road splits are almost exactly equal, with the Cubs having one fewer home game. Among the three teams, the Cubs are currently the only one with a winning road record, though it’s close. The Cubs are 37-34 on the road, the Brewers 36-36, the Cardinals 35-37.
The Brewers and Cardinals finish the season playing each other in St. Louis while the Cubs host the Reds. If the Cubs haven’t wrapped up the division title by then, playing the Reds at Wrigley while the other two teams knock each other out of the race is a possible scenario.
Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be an interesting last three weeks.