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An updated look at playoff matchups and remaining Cubs and Cardinals schedules

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Two weeks remain in the 2020 regular season.

Javy Baez says, “We’re still No. 1!”
Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

The Cubs got more good news Sunday after Alec Mills’ no-hitter. That news was the Cardinals dropping their game to the Reds in St. Louis. The Reds helped the Cubs out by taking two of three from St. Louis.

The Cubs have Monday off before beginning a two-game series against the Indians at Wrigley Field Tuesday, but the rest of the division is in action. The Reds will host the Pirates, and the Cardinals and Brewers will play a doubleheader at Miller Park Monday, one of at least four more twin bills the Cards will play in the next two weeks.

The Cubs’ magic numbers for various postseason spots stand as follows:

In reality, the “DIV2” (second place in the NL Central) and “WC” numbers are lower, because the Cardinals and Brewers are playing each other and it’s unlikely one team will sweep all those games. When those games happen, numbers will drop on both the DIV2 and WC magic numbers no matter who wins.

Here are the remaining schedules for the Cubs and Cardinals entering Monday’s action. Home games in boldface.

Cubs, 12 games (5 home, 7 road)

Indians (2), Twins (3), at Pirates (4), at White Sox (3)

Cardinals, 18 games (5 home, 13 road)

at Brewers (5), at Pirates (5), at Royals (3), Brewers (5)

That’s a very tough schedule for the Cardinals, who have 13 upcoming road games including three doubleheaders. They’ll play a doubleheader against the Tigers in Detroit Monday, September 28 only if those games are needed for postseason seeding. Otherwise St. Louis will finish the year with 58 total games played.

Meanwhile, none of the teams chasing the Cubs in the NL Central are playing them anymore this year. The Cubs will play eight of their remaining 12 games against American League teams. Hopefully, the Cubs will have clinched the division and locked in a playoff seed before they face the White Sox and that three-game set can be glorified exhibition games.

The following would be the postseason matchups if the season had ended after Sunday’s games:

NATIONAL LEAGUE

#8 Giants (23-24) at #1 Dodgers (33-14)
#7 Phillies (23-22) at #2 Braves (28-19)
#6 Cardinals (20-20) at #3 Cubs (28-20)
#5 Marlins (23-21) at #4 Padres (31-17)

Three of those four are between teams who have already seen a lot of each other this year, and a Cardinals/Cubs postseason series would be great fun. The Cubs still have a shot at the No. 2 seed, and the Phillies could still flip places with the Marlins. Also, as well as the Dodgers have played this year, they’re only 2½ games ahead of the Padres. Those teams will meet for a three-game series beginning Monday night in San Diego. The Dodgers have won four of the first seven games they’ve played this year against the Padres.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

#8 Indians (26-21) at #1 White Sox (30-16)
#7 Yankees (26-21) at #2 Rays (30-17)
#6 Astros (23-24) at #3 Athletics (29-17)
#5 Blue Jays (26-20) at #4 Twins (30-18)

As you can see, there’s still a real chance that teams could move up or down several spots. The Twins are only a game out of first place in the AL Central; passing the White Sox would move them up, possibly to the top spot, though the Rays also could move up top, and so could the A’s.

As of Monday, two teams with losing records (Astros and Giants) would qualify for the October tournament. That, of course, could also change before the 60-game season ends September 27. Barring sudden winning streaks by teams not listed above, though, those are probably the 16 teams that will be playing in October. The current ninth-ranked team in the NL (Rockies) is 2½ games out of a playoff spot (though the Brewers are only two games behind the Cardinals for second place in the NL Central) and the ninth-ranked team in the AL (Mariners) is 4½ games back of the No. 8 seed there.

Having said all this, I did want to note: This sprint of a season has had exciting moments, no-hitters, great comebacks and other fine performances. It’s absolutely a legitimate season, in my view, despite its length. If the Cubs can make it through and win this year’s World Series trophy, it’ll be just as valid as the one they won in 2016.