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Nine more wins
by alex ciepley
As both Adam and John noted in yesterday's comments, the Cubs now have a number that gets them to the playoffs: 9. If the Cubs win nine of their last eleven games, they are mathematically guaranteed a Wild Card berth. Because L.A. and San Francisco face each other six times in the waning days of the season, both the Dodgers and Giants also have numbers that guarantee them postseason spots: in both cases, 8 wins and they're in. It seems odd that three teams could have target win totals that would guarantee them one of two spots in the playoffs, but those are the quirks of the schedule. Explanation:
With nine Cubs wins, the Astros could win the rest of their games and still be one behind in the loss column. They have a difficult row to hoe.
The Giants could go 8-2, which would give them the same record as the Cubs, but which would also mean L.A. would have—at best—a 7-4 record due to the six games they have with the Giants. In this scenario, the Giants would win the West, and the Cubs would beat the Dodgers for the Wild Card.
The Dodgers could go 8-3 in their final eleven games to win the NL West, since that record would guarantee that the Giants could go at best 7-3. If the Cubs won nine games, they would then beat the Giants for the Wild Card.
If the Giants or the Dodgers win more than eight of their final games, it's even better news for the Cubs, since it would guarantee that one of the teams of that pair would have lost at least four games. The Cubs in this case could win only eight of their final games and still get into the playoffs.
These scenarios make the head spin, but they add up to one interesting thing: As of this morning, the Cubs actually have a slightly better chance of making the postseason than either the Dodgers or Giants (well, they have almost the exact same chance as the Dodgers). Weird, I know, but it is one of the benefits of being the third wheel while your primary two opponents duke it out.
Of course, the Cubs now need to go out and win nine games; this is obviously neither an easy task nor a likely outcome. They can start today, however, with Maddux's fifteenth win. The matchup against Nelson Figueroa is a good one on paper, but we know how those scrubby pitchers sometimes handle the Cubs' lineup. Here's hoping Chicago treats Figueroa like Logan Kensing, and not like David Weathers.