After this weekend, the Chicago Cubs will have 20 games left in their 2013 season. Of those 20 games, 17 will be against divisional opponents. The Cubs’ schedule consists of three games against the Cincinnati Reds, three against the St. Louis Cardinals, four games against the Milwaukee Brewers, and seven games against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
As of September 7, the NL Central Division standings are extremely close. The Pirates currently lead the division by a half game over the Cardinals and 2.0 games over the Reds. The Pirates are seeking their first division title and first playoff appearance since 1992. The Pirates joined the NL Central division in 1994, so they also will be seeking their first-ever NL Central division crown.
With just a few weeks left in the MLB 2013 regular season, the Pirates, Cardinals and Reds all look like they will be making the playoffs. With the addition of the extra wild card spot last season, the NL Central will most likely be represented by three teams this October.
However, the final standings will have major implications on hopeful playoff runs. No team wants to be placed in a scenario of a one-game playoff. If the Cubs can stretch together a few wins against any of the three teams, especially the Pirates, the teams could find themselves shifting spots in the postseason race.
Hypothetically, let’s say the Pirates lose a couple of games to the Cubs and fall to the second spot in the NL Central. That would make the Pirates one of the Wild Card teams. They would only get a one-game playoff to stay in the playoffs and would lose home field advantage for their first series if they won. If the Pirates lost enough games to fall to third place in the division and second in the wild card, they would have to play the one-game playoff on the road.
The Pirates, Reds, and Cardinals need to take care of business in their upcoming series with the Cubs. Whomever wins the most games against the Cubs in the next few weeks will most likely win the division. Winning the division could be the difference between making a strong playoff run or going home after a one-and-done. Expect these teams to play their best baseball against the Cubs during the next few weeks. It should be great to watch.