The Cubs defeated the Cardinals Monday and thus maintained a 2½-game lead in the NL Central with 18 games remaining. That is, 18 remaining for them. The Cardinals have at least 25 games left, and possibly 27 if they have to play a makeup doubleheader against the Tigers the day after the season is scheduled to end.
Here are the remaining schedules for the Cubs and Cardinals entering Tuesday’s action. Home games in boldface.
Cubs, 18 games (8 home, 10 road)
Reds (3), at Brewers (3), Indians (2), Twins (3), at Pirates (4), at White Sox (3)
Cardinals, 25 games (12 home, 13 road)
Twins (2), Tigers (2), Reds (3), at Brewers (5), at Pirates (5), at Royals (3), Brewers (5)
The Cardinals schedule includes six doubleheaders and possibly a seventh. They also haven’t faced the Brewers at all, yet.
All 16 teams that would qualify for the postseason if the season had ended after Monday’s games are at least at .500, so that’s good. It’s certainly possible a team or two with a losing record could get into this year’s expanded postseason tournament, but it’d be better if that didn’t happen.
Here are the matchups as they would be as of today. Seedings are from this page.
The Phillies got off to a 9-14 start, but have since gone 11-3 to get into the postseason picture. The most intriguing team here is the Padres, who likely win their series over the Cardinals to get into the division series round.
As long as the Cubs can line up Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks to throw in a best-of-three series, they should win it. All of the above matchups are between teams that won’t have played each other at all during the 60-game schedule.
These races are quite close. The Twins, in third place in the AL Central, are only a game out of first, which would jump them up five spots in the rankings and get them a home series. Meanwhile, the Yankees are only 1½ games ahead of the Orioles (!) for the last spot in the AL postseason, at least as of now. Three of the four matchups, at least as of now, would be between teams that have played each other 10 times already over the two-month season.
Expect these to change quite a bit over the season’s final 2½ weeks. As I’ve noted previously, I think having home field in this round is important. Obviously that’s not for fan support, since parks will be empty, but instead for the idea of being at home and not having to travel during the pandemic. In a year that’s been so fraught with peril, that likely matters.