The Rundown: Cubs Can Clinch Playoff Spot with Win Today, Who Will Be NL Manager of the Year? Kerry Wood Cubs Field Opens

The Cubs were off yesterday, but got one step closer to the playoffs.

The Giants lost in extra innings to the Padres last night, which means the Cubs’ magic number to reach the playoffs is 1. It also means the Cubs can clinch a playoff berth with a win today against the Pirates.

This would be a fitting result. The Cubs clinched the NL Central title in 2003 at Wrigley Field against the Pirates — a moment I’ll never forget.

Yes, the Cubs made playoffs a couple times since then, in 2007 and 2008. But this 2015 Cubs team feels a lot like the 2003 team to me. That team, behind a new manager, surprised a lot of people by making the playoffs after a 67-95 record the year before.

Sounds a lot like this year.

So now the question becomes: Can the Cubs overtake the Pirates over the next week and gain home-field advantage in the Wild Card playoff?

Pittsburgh of course won again yesterday, their sixth in a row. That puts the Cubs 3.5 games behind. Even if they sweep the weekend series, they won’t overtake the top Wild Card spot.

For the Cubs to have a chance, they’ll likely need to take at least 2 out of 3 this series. Definitely feasible with both Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta pitching.

It’s going to be a fun one.

Other notes

* Jayson Stark takes a look at who he thinks will win the NL Manager of the Year award, and narrows it down between Joe Maddon and the Cardinals’ Mike Matheny. These seem like pretty good choices to me. Obviously I’m going to have to side with Maddon, being able to watch him operate on a daily basis. To see what he has done for the confidence of this young team has been remarkable. The Cardinals have had a very impressive year, managing to finish with the best record in the game after losing multiple key pieces due to injury. But I’m still going with Joe.

* Kerry Wood Cubs Field opened yesterday, just a couple miles west of Wrigley Field. It will provide Chicago public school teams on the North Side a chance to play on a field that meets Illinois High School Association standards. I noticed the new sign yesterday while driving home from work, and it looks great.

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