Earlier this week, we talked about the Magical World of Baseball. We looked at the Cubs’ Magic Number (it currently sits at 8) and examined the rest of the season based on the Cubs pulling into the station with a .500 record down the stretch. Since that writing, the Cubs have gone 2-2, and they have 10 games to play in the 2018 regular season. If the Cubs go 5-5 in the next ten games, Milwaukee would have to go 8-1 to take the division. Expecting anything more than the top Wild Card berth for them is a bit of a stretch.
So I’m handing the division to the Chicago Cubs, right? Not just yet, and I’ll tell you why…
Because there are NO CUPCAKES REMAINING ON THE SCHEDULE. There is not one series left where we will pick up easy wins. First, let’s look at the opponents coming up.
The White Sox are currently trying to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1970. So they’re awful, right? Nope. You can throw out the records when these teams meet this weekend. Simply put, this series is the 2018 playoffs for the White Sox and their fans. They would desperately love to play spoiler to the Cubs, make no mistake on that point. They have a manager named Ricky Renteria. He once coached the Cubs, but was let go because Joe Maddon was available and better suited to the job. The three games will be called by terrible-but-beloved analyst Hawk Harrelson, and Hawk would love (L-O-V-E) to see the Sox throw a monkey wrench into our post-season plans. The stands will be loaded with Cubbie blue, but the Sox fans will be in full throat. This could be a tough series. Winnable, but tough.
Up next are the Pittsburgh Pirates and Clint “Respect The Game” Hurdle. Clint doesn’t think we play the game the right way, but the Pirates are 77-74 and eliminated from the playoffs. So they have nothing to play for, right? Wrong. They will be playing for pride, as well as the edge in the season series against us. They are currently 7-8 against Chicago, and they will want to finish the season on a high note. Taking 3-of-4 against the Cubs would be the way to do that. I do not expect this Pirates team to roll over for us. These all are winnable games for the Cubs, but they will not be given to us.
And then we have St. friggin’ Louis coming to town. Our record against the cardinals* is 7-9 heading into the last series of the season. The cardinals* have played outstanding ball the last 2 months, somehow erasing all the mistakes of their current POBO John Mozeliak and their former manager Mike Matheny. They are currently at 84-69 and desperately playing for the second Wild Card. Every game is a must-win right now for St. Louis, who will likely need help to get in. Don’t expect anything to be given to us these three games, either, and don’t discount St. Louis’ devil magic.
As I said, there are no cupcakes left this season. But you know what I like best about cupcakes? I like the icing…
The Cubs are coming off their most brutal stretch of baseball this season, possibly in decades. They came out of that 29-game stretch at 18-11. They are now coming home to recharge, and will play their remaining 10 games within the city limits of Chicago. They have endured season-ending injuries to Darvish and Morrow. Kris Bryant missed 2 months with a shoulder injury. Jason Heyward missed most of the last month. Don’t even get me started on Tyler Chatwood or Pedro Strop right now. And despite all the injuries, despite all the position changes, and despite the brutal schedule, Joe Maddon has coached this team to the best record in the National League. He has hit the right buttons time and again, with a minimum of misses.
So while there is room for improvement, remember that this Cubs team is poised to clinch its THIRD STRAIGHT Central Division crown and make their fourth consecutive playoff appearance. And that, as they say, is the icing on the cake.
*The author has found tremendous difficulty in capitalizing the word “cardinals” and makes no apologies.