Less than six weeks ago, the Cubs were at their low-water mark of the season in terms of postseason odds. In the time since, they’ve improved their outlook nearly tenfold, going from 6% to 59.5% by going 24-10 (.706). Winning nearly three-quarters of your games has a way of turning things around, and the Cubs now hold sole possession of both second place in the NL Central and the second Wild Card spot.
They’re a game closer to the latter than the former, but they’re still going to have to battle over the remainder of the season to keep pace. Of their remaining 35 games, 20 come against other teams competing with them for a playoff spot (Diamondbacks – 7, Brewers – 6, Reds – 4, Giants – 3). The other 15 are a mix of very bad and very good (Pirates – 6, Rockies – 6, Braves – 3). That means the trend line below could still move dramatically in any number of ways.
The next six games will go a long way toward determining that direction, as the Cubs have three remaining in Pittsburgh prior to hosting the Brewers. Milwaukee is playing like they’ve got a giant horseshoe up their collective ass and they’ve got the underwhelming Padres at AmFam field this weekend, so the Cubs may have to sweep the Pirates just to tread water.
If the Cubs can pick up a game or two, however, they’ll be in position to take the lead in the Central at the end of the month. They get the Brewers at Wrigley North to finish the regular season as well, but I think we’re all hoping that series is devoid of drama for all the right seasons. Whether or not David Ross and Co. are able to get it done may come down to pitching, which continues to be a sore spot in the second half.
While the Cubs lead the NL with 231 runs scored in the second half and are second to only the Braves in home runs and WAR, their 4.20 ERA and 4.24 FIP are way too high. Reinforcements should be on the way with Jordan Wicks expected to debut this weekend and several relievers nearing activation from the 60-day IL, so it’s entirely possible this team will continue to improve throughout September.
Whatever ends up happening, it’s been a lot of fun to watch them put it together over the last two months or so. I’ve also taken a bit of joy in watching people tripping over themselves while walking back all the talk about how the Cubs were going to sell because they never intended to compete in the first place.