Here are the Cubs’ current magic numbers:
So, if the Cubs go 6-1 in their seven remaining games, they’ll win the division no matter what any of the other teams do. That’s not likely, so they’ll need some help from other teams.
Here are the remaining schedules for the Cubs and the three other contending teams in the division. Home games in boldface.
Cubs, 7 games (7 road)
at Pirates (4), at White Sox (3)
Cardinals, 8 games* (5 home, 3 road)
at Royals (3), Brewers (5)
Reds, 6 games (3 home, 3 road)
Brewers (3), at Twins (3)
Brewers, 8 games (8 road)
at Reds (3), at Cardinals (5)
As you can see, almost all of the games for the four NL Central contenders are on the road, except for the Reds hosting the Brewers for a three-game set and the five the Cardinals will play at home vs. the Brewers (and in one of those five, the Brewers will bat last, as that’ll be the second game of a doubleheader).
The asterisk next to the Cardinals’ number of games is there because it’s appearing more and more likely that the Cardinals will have to play a makeup doubleheader Monday, September 28 against the Tigers. If needed, those games will be played in Detroit.
If the Cubs wind up tied with any of the other NL Central teams for the division title, they own the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Reds.
But they split the season series with both the Brewers and Cardinals, and the next tiebreaker being used this year is the team’s intradivisonal record (essentially, the NL record, as no team is playing anyone outside their division in their own league). Current records within the division:
Cubs: 21-15 (four remaining)
Cardinals: 19-16 (five remaining)
Reds: 19-18 (three remaining)
Brewers: 16-16 (eight remaining)
There’s one more tiebreaker the Cubs need to be cognizant of. Currently, the Cubs and Braves, both of whom are in first place, have identical 31-22 records. Since those two teams have not faced each other this year, the tiebreaker is the record within each team’s division.
As noted above, the Cubs are 21-15 within the NL Central. Entering Monday’s action, the Braves are 21-15 within the NL East, with four games remaining within that division, all against the Marlins at Atlanta. The Marlins are having a good year (28-25) and currently hold a postseason spot, the No. 5 seed, and are only three games out of first place. That won’t be an easy series for the Braves. Atlanta finishes its season at home with three games against the Red Sox, who are having an awful season (20-34), so the best scenario for the Cubs would be to avoid tiebreakers entirely.
If the Cubs and any other team are tied at the end of the season and the first two tiebreakers are also tied between those teams, the third tiebreaker is ... well, this:
The first tiebreaker is head-to-head record (if applicable). If that’s also a tie, the next tiebreaker is intradivision record. If that’s still a tie, the next is record in the final 20 division games (plus one until the tie is broken).
The Cubs must currently hold that tiebreaker, because they are listed as the No. 2 seed here. Let’s hope the final determination doesn’t come to that. If the Cubs’ final position in the postseason seedings isn’t wrapped up before the series against the White Sox, I’ll post another article on this topic on Friday.
Lastly, here are the postseason matchups as of Monday:
#8 Reds (27-27) at #1 Dodgers (38-16)
#7 Phillies (27-26) at #2 Cubs (31-22)
#6 Cardinals (26-24) at #3 Braves (31-22)
#5 Marlins (28-25) at #4 Padres (34-20)
#8 Blue Jays (27-26) at #1 Rays (35-19)
#7 Indians (29-24) at #2 White Sox (34-19)
#6 Astros (27-26) at #3 Athletics (33-20)
#5 Yankees (31-22) at #4 Twins (33-22)