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

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We’ve got fewer than four weeks left in the 2020 season.

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The abbreviated 2020 MLB season ends three weeks from next Sunday.

That was fast!

I’m going to try to keep you all updated on postseason matchups, since barring collapse the Cubs are likely going to be playing in October, over the next few weeks.

Based on MLB standings after Tuesday’s games, these would be the first-round matchups if the season had ended with those games:

NATIONAL LEAGUE

#8 Giants (18-19) at #1 Dodgers (27-10)
#7 Phillies (16-15) at #2 Braves (21-14)
#6 Marlins (16-15) at #3 Cubs (21-14)
#5 Cardinals (14-13) at #4 Padres (22-15)

AMERICAN LEAGUE

#8 Blue Jays (18-16) at #1 Rays (25-12)
#7 Twins (21-16) at #2 Athletics (22-12)
#6 Astros (19-14) at #3 Indians (22-14)
#5 Yankees (20-14) at #4 White Sox (22-14)

This time, unlike the last time I tried this, I’ve got the tiebreakers correct — full information about the tiebreakers is here. The Cardinals currently are a couple percentage points ahead of the Marlins and Phillies. With St. Louis’ upcoming schedule (see below), that’s likely to change.

The Padres are probably the most intriguing team in this tournament, I think, especially with the massive trade they recently made. The tiebreaker between the Braves and Cubs, as of now, is “record within your own division.” Currently the Braves are 8-5 vs. the NL East and the Cubs are 7-5 within the NL Central. That could change; as long as the Cubs remain in first place they are very likely to be either the No. 2 or No. 3 seed, as the Dodgers are likely the top NL seed unless they have a complete collapse.

In the NL Central, the Brewers and Reds, both of whom were expected to be strong contenders this year, have struggled. It’s possible, of course, that one or both could go on a hot streak — remember how poorly the eventual World Series champion Nationals played early in 2019? — but they have little time left. It’s my view that the NL Central title will be won by either the Cubs or Cardinals, and right now the Cubs are in the driver’s seat. If they can win at least three of the five games at Wrigley Field this weekend, the Cubs should be well in control of the division, especially with all the doubleheaders the Cardinals still face.

Here are the remaining schedules for both teams. Home games in boldface.

Cubs, 25 games (13 home, 12 road)

at Pirates (2), Cardinals (5), Reds (3), at Brewers (3), Indians (2), Twins (3), at Pirates (4), at White Sox (3)

Cardinals, 31 games* (12 home, 19 road)

at Reds (1), at Cubs (5), Twins (2), Tigers (2), Reds (3), at Brewers (5), at Pirates (5), at Royals (3), Brewers (5)

The asterisk is there because the Cardinals also might have to play a doubleheader at Detroit September 28, the day after the scheduled end of the regular season, if those games mean anything as far as playoff positioning. If they don’t, the Cardinals will play only 58 games this year.

That’s a daunting schedule for St. Louis that includes at least seven doubleheaders and possibly an eighth as noted above. Five of those twin bills are in an 11-day period from September 8-18, so even though they have an off day (September 9) in that stretch, the Cardinals will play 15 games in those 11 days. Yes, 10 of the 15 games will last only seven innings (barring extras), but the St. Louis pitching staff will still be stretched to its limit.

As noted above, the Cubs really do have the upper hand for the NL Central title. If they can finish the series vs. the Cardinals with a three- or four-game lead, they’ll have that lead with fewer than 20 games remaining and the teams don’t play each other again after next Monday.

This is a bizarre, wacky season with weird rules, COVID-19 interruptions and other strange happenings. With the caveat that I hope everyone involved stays healthy, I’d encourage everyone to embrace this year. We’ll (hopefully) never see its likes again.