The Rundown: Cubs Gain Ground on Pirates and Increase Lead on Giants, Playoff Schedule Announced, Ryan Williams is Southern League Pitcher of the Week

The Cubs were idle yesterday but managed to gain ground on both the Pirates (who lost to the Diamondbacks) and Giants (who lost to the Cardinals).

They now sit two games behind Pittsburgh for the first wild card spot, and lead the Giants by four games for the second spot.

The Cubs appear to be in good shape to make the playoffs (with the obvious caveat that this is the Cubs I’m talking about, so nothing is for sure), most likely one of the two wild cards.

Although not probable, they also could still take down the NL Central if everything falls into place. With last night’s win, the Cardinals hold an eight-game lead on the Cubs.

St. Louis placed rookie outfielder Randal Grichuk on the 15-day disabled list yesterday due to an elbow strain, and outfielder Jason Heyward was pulled from last night’s game with a tight hamstring.

Maybe the Cardinals’ injury woes will catch up with them over the last month of the season? I mean, probably not, but maybe. Their season really has been pretty remarkable considering all of the star players they have lost this year.

The Cubs are back in action tonight against the Tigers, and they’ll be facing RHP Anibal Sanchez, who has struggled all year long. Sanchez has given up a ton of home runs this year, so maybe the Cubs will be deposit a few baseballs into the bleachers tonight.

Playoff schedule announced

Haven’t had to really worry about this in several years, but MLB has announced its playoff schedule.

The National League wild card game is slated for Wednesday, Oct. 7. The America League game will take place the day before.

The rest of the schedule is as follows:

Obviously, the wild card game is the likely landing spot for the Cubs if they make the playoffs. So Oct. 7 could be a day you’re going to want to circle on your calendar.

Other notes

* Even though he hasn’t started at catcher since Miguel Montero came off the disabled list, Kyle Schwarber is still working hard behind the plate, writes Carrie Muskat. Montero is putting in a lot of effort to help Schwarber improve. “He wants me to catch, and he’s told me he wants me to catch,” Schwarber said of Montero. “Every time he says that he knows I can do it, it gives me a little reassurance. I know there’s still a lot of work, and that’s what he knows, too, and he wants to help me out in any way possible.” Having Montero on this team is important for so many reasons. Add being a mentor to Kyle Schwarber to that list.

* Tennessee Smokies RHP Ryan Williams has been named the Southern League’s pitcher of the week, after giving up only one run in 12 innings over two starts. He struck out nine. Williams started the year with Low-A South Bend, and made the jump all the way up to Double-A in June. He has a 2.60 ERA with the Smokies, to go along with a 1.00 WHIP.

* The Cubs-Cardinals game at Wrigley Field on Sept. 20, originally listed as a TBD start time, will start at 1:20.

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