Coming into 2020, the NL Central was said to be the most competitive division in all of baseball. However, that hasn’t been the case. Only two teams in the division are above .500, the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals. Although the Cubs have a comfortable lead in the division, the Cardinals, Reds and Brewers can still catch them.
With one week left in the regular season, it will be a race to the finish. This season, the playoffs decided to expand to eight teams instead of five. Let’s take a look at each NL Central team and their schedule in the final week of the regular season.
1st NL Central
T-2nd in NL
9/21-9/24- @ Pittsburgh Pirates
9/25-9/27- @ Chicago White Sox
The Chicago Cubs have a comfortable lead in the NL Central and look like they will win their first division title since 2017. This week the Cubs travel to Pittsburgh to take on the struggling Pirates and then finish the season with the Chicago White Sox a part of the Crosstown Classic.
The Chicago Cubs are 5-1 this season against the Pittsburgh Pirates and have won 19 of their last 27 games going back to last season. They could possibly clinch a playoff berth even before their series with the White Sox this weekend. The Cubs magic number to clinch a playoff berth is four. On the contrary, the magic number to clinch the division is at six.
Although the playoffs will be played on neutral grounds, in Texas for the NL playoffs, the Cubs are still pushing to get the second seed in the NL. The Atlanta Braves are the only team that can prevent that and are tied with the Cubs.
St. Louis Cardinals
2nd in Central (3.5 GB)
6th in NL (+1 GB)
9/21-9/23- @ Kansas City Royals
9/24-9/27- vs. Milwaukee Brewers (Doubleheader 9/25)
This can be a make or break week for the Cardinals. The Cardinals can go anywhere from the division winner to a playoff berth to being eliminated from the playoffs all in one week.
However, their schedule is on the lighter side this week. Both clubs they face are below .500 and teams that the Cardinals have played well against. They start their week against the Royals. This season, the Cardinals are 2-1 against Kansas City.
To finish off the regular season, the Cardinals face the Milwaukee Brewers. Due to the unfortunate events of people in the Cardinals’ organization contracting the coronavirus, they had to postpone 12 of their games at the beginning of the season. With that, St. Louis has had 11 doubleheaders including one in the final weekend of the season against the Brewers.
In games that the Cardinals have played two games in one day, they are 11-8. This marks the third doubleheader that the Brewers and Cardinals will play in the last two weeks of the season. This season, the Cardinals are 2-3 against the Brewers. The magic number for the Cardinals to clinch a postseason berth is nine.
T-3rd in NL Central (4.5 GB)
T-8th in NL (+0.0)
9/21-9/23- vs. Milwaukee Brewers
9/25-9/27- Minnesota Twins
The Reds are fighting to hold onto the final playoff spot in the NL. Cincinnati is a team that everyone thought was going to be a sleeper team and win the NL Central. However, they had a rough start to the season. As of late, the Reds are playing exceptional baseball winning seven of eight games.
Cincinnati and Milwaukee are currently tied for the last wild card spot, so this series has huge playoff implications. The Reds own the series lead this year 4-3.
The Reds have an off-day on Thursday, which will be much needed as they finish their season on the road against the Minnesota Twins. This will be their first series of the year against each other. Minnesota looks to play spoiler as they fight to catch the White Sox in the AL Central.
The Cincinnati Reds magic number to clinch a playoff berth is eight.
T-3rd in NL Central (4.5 GB)
T-8th in NL (0.0, Tied with Reds and Giants)
9/21-9/23- @ Cincinnati Reds
9/24-9/27- @ St. Louis Cardinals (Doubleheader 9/25)
This week, the Brewers have two division series. They start the week against the red hot Cincinnati Reds. This season, the Brewers are 3-4 against the Reds. This season has been very much disappointing for Milwaukee. Former NL MVP, Christian Yelich, has not lived up to his name. He is only batting .215 with 11 home runs, which is very unlike Yelich.
Despite that fact, the Brewers are still in the playoff hunt. They are currently tied with Cincinnati for the last wild card spot, however, the Reds own the tie-breaker.
For Milwaukee, it’s going to come down to their five-game series against St. Louis. As of 9/20, the Brewers are only one game behind the Cardinals. If the Brewers can play well enough against St. Louis, Milwaukee can sneak into the second spot in the NL Central. The Brewers are 3-2 against the Cardinals this season.
5th in NL Central
9/21-9/24- vs. Chicago Cubs
9/25-9/27- @ Cleveland Indians
The Pittsburgh Pirates have been eliminated from postseason contention. Although they are eliminated, the Pittsburgh look to play spoiler. In the last week, they play two teams fighting for a playoff spot.
Pittsburgh didn’t have a solid season and is looking forward to the 2021 season to have a bounceback season.
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