The Cubs’ magic number to clinch a postseason spot (in other words, at least be in the wild-card game) is two, and for a division title it’s five.
With Brewers and the Cardinals and playing each other beginning Monday night, the Cubs could get help from both. More on that below; first, here are the schedules for the three remaining N.L. Central contenders (home games in boldface).
Pirates (4), Cardinals (3)
at Cardinals (3), Tigers (3)
Brewers (3), at Cubs (3)
The Cubs can take care of the division title by winning five of their seven home games no matter what the other teams do. That would be ideal, of course, but I suppose the Pirates and Cardinals have other ideas.
The earliest the Cubs can clinch the N.L. Central is Wednesday. That would require the Cardinals to take the first two games against the Brewers, and the Cubs to win the first two games over the Pirates.
If that happens, not only would the Cubs be able to clinch by winning Wednesday, but the Brewers and Cardinals would be tied going into Wednesday night’s action. Milwaukee and St. Louis have split 16 games so far this year, so if they wind up tied for the two wild-card spots, the winner of their current series would host the wild-card game.
Courtesy of BCBer interbret, here’s the W/L chart for the three N.L. Central teams:
There is one other thing to watch this week, and that’s the N.L. West race as well as the possibility that the Rockies could sneak in to win either the West title or one of the wild-card spots. Currently the Rockies trail the Dodgers by 1½ games in the division, and also trail the Cardinals by 1½ games for the second wild card.
That might seem like a stretch, but the Rockies are playing the Phillies (four games) and Nationals (three games) at home this week. Meanwhile, the Dodgers are playing the Diamondbacks (three games) and Giants (three games) on the road. Both Dodger opponents are eliminated from postseason consideration (as are both Rockies opponents), but both currently have 9-7 records against the Dodgers in 2018 and the Giants in particular have played far better at home (41-34) than on the road (31-50) this year, so Colorado tying or passing L.A. is certainly not impossible.
And there’s also a somewhat plausible way for the Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers and Rockies to wind up in a four-way tie at 91-71. The four teams would have to do this in the final week to accomplish that:
Is that likely? No. Is it possible? Absolutely. If that happened, the Rockies and Dodgers would first play off the N.L. West title, then the loser would compete against the other two for the wild-card spots. Let’s all root for chaos!