However, that says “brink” and the Cubs have not yet been mathematically eliminated.
Before you tell me I’m crazy for thinking the Cubs can still make the 2019 postseason, I completely understand that it’s virtually impossible and that their season will most likely end Sunday in St. Louis.
The Cubs’ elimination number from the 2019 postseason stands at 3. I went and looked to see if there were any teams that had made the postseason in the divisional play era after having an elimination number that small, or smaller.
The answer is yes, it has happened.
The Jays had October 1 off; Detroit beat Baltimore to move to within one game with three remaining — against the Jays.
Detroit swept the series and won the division by two games.
I’ll get to the other team that came back and made the postseason with an elimination number of 3 momentarily, but here’s one that happened with an even smaller number.
In 2007, the Rockies went on an unbelievable tear, winning 13 of their last 14 regular-season games. But after the one loss in that stretch — after an 11-game winning streak — their elimination number was one. They had to win their last two regular-season games while the Padres had to lose their last two just to force a tiebreaker for the wild-card spot.
They did, and the Padres did (after blowing a ninth-inning lead that would have clinched it with Trevor Hoffman on the mound!), and the Rockies hosted and won the tiebreaker:
The Padres are still waiting for Matt Holliday to touch the plate.
And in the same year as that Rockies/Padres wild-card race, a team that had an elimination number of 4 still made the postseason. With five games remaining in the 2007 season, the Mets were 87-70 and led the 85-72 Phillies by two games. The Mets went 1-4, the Phillies 4-1, and Philadelphia won the N.L. East by one game.
And then there’s the one that should be quite familiar to both Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon. It’s the other race where the elimination number got down to 3. In this case, with three games remaining, the Red Sox were 89-70, the Rays 88-71. Boston led the wild-card race by one game with those three to go.
The Red Sox lost two of three to the Orioles, who were a 90-plus loss team that year.
The Rays were hosting the Yankees, who had already clinched the A.L. East title. The Rays won the first two games of the series, but were trailing 7-1 going into the eighth inning of Game 162. They scored six runs in the eighth and with two out in the ninth, Dan Johnson, a spare-part outfielder who entered the game batting .108, did this on a 2-2 count:
I mean, come on. The ball hit the foul pole. You can’t make this stuff up.
Three innings later, Evan Longoria put the Rays in the postseason:
In addition to Joe Maddon managing that team (and check out how young he looks in those video clips), Ben Zobrist played for that Rays team (and hit a double in that six-run rally). Those two, at least, know exactly how a miracle finish can turn out. It can be reasonably stated that Theo Epstein might not have wound up in Chicago if the Red Sox had held on to that postseason spot and had something of a long playoff run in 2011.
Now, I am well aware of how long a longshot this is. The Cubs would have to run the table and the Brewers would then have to go 2-4 or worse.
But don’t tell me it can’t happen, because stranger things have. And wouldn’t that be an amazing ending to this bizarre Cubs season?