The first three games all went into extra innings, with the Cubs prevailing in the first two and the Brewers fighting back in the third by getting the better of Cubs closer Wade Davis. However, Jose Quintana was outstanding on Sunday to lead the Cubs to a 5-0 victory and a 3-1 series win that puts them on the verge of clinching the NL Central division title.
The Cubs lead the Brewers by 5.5 games, and the Cardinals by 6 after they lost two of three against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and just need a combination of two wins by them or two losses by Milwaukee to make sure.
Arizona punched their ticket for the post-season by winning the finale of their 3-game series against the Miami Marlins on Sunday. J.D. Martinez has been an inspired mid-season pick-up and he hit a walk-off single to win the series 2-1 and clinch a Wild Card spot for the D-Backs.
The Colorado Rockies still look like being the team they will face at Chase Field in the NL Wild Card game, although the Rockies are crawling over the line. They split a 4-game series with the San Diego Padres this weekend which was enough to keep them ahead by 2.5 games due to the Brewers’ losses.
NL Central and NL Wildcard
We may as well consider these two in one go and it promises to be an enthralling final week. The remaining fixtures are as follows:
- The Cubs are in St Louis for a 4-game series, then home to Cincinnati for 3 to end the season.
- St Louis follow their Cubs series with a 3-game home series against Milwaukee.
- Milwaukee have a day off on Monday, then a 3-game home series against Cincinnati before heading to St Louis.
- Colorado are at home all week, with a 3-game series against Miami, a day off on Thursday and then a 3-game series against the Dodgers.
Everything goes through St Louis this week. They’ve got seven games at Busch Stadium and all of them give them a chance not only to put wins on their board, but also losses against their NL Central rivals’. The Cardinals also have an extra game compared with the Brewers and Rockies and given how tight the Wild Card is, that could prove significant. If they win it, of course.
It’s simple for the Rockies: they have to take advantage of their three-game series against the Marlins to start the week well. If they sweep it, the Cubs win a couple in St Louis and Cincinnati take one or two against the Brewers then both the Wild Card and NL Central will probably be sorted, or very close to it, before we get to Friday’s games.
Verdict: I can see the Cubs going at least 4-3 and that will be more than enough to clinch the Central; however I’ve got a feeling that the Marlins could avenge their 3-game sweep at the hands of the Rockies in August and make it interesting. If the Brewers had a make-up game to win this week then I might just give them the edge, but as it is I’ll still take the Rockies to hold on by their fingernails thanks to the Cards-Brew Crew series ending 2-1 one way or the other.
The Minnesota Twins have the second AL Wild Card within touching distance after they took advantage of a demoralised Detroit team by sweeping a 4-game series. The Twins had an 8-run eighth inning in the third game on the way to a 10-4 victory and completed the sweep on Sunday by winning by the same emphatic scoreline. The Tigers have lost seven in a row and confirmed over the weekend that manager Brad Ausmus will finish with the team at the end of the season.
The Twins’ closest Wild Card opponents all faltered over the weekend. The Texas Rangers were swept 3-0 by the rampant Oakland A’s (winners of their last 7, and 14 of their last 17 – not quite up to Cleveland’s standards, but a positive end to the season at the least), whilst Kansas City lost 2 of 3 against the Chicago White Sox.
The LA Angels were able to get a consolation victory over the Houston Astros in the ESPN Sunday Night game, but that snapped a 6-game losing streak for the Halos and still leaves them 4.5 games behind the Twins. The Rangers and Royals are 5.5 games back.
The Boston Red Sox have all-but clinched the AL East division after sweeping a 3-game inter-league series against Cincinnati to make it six wins in a row. They lead the New York Yankees by 5 games in the standings after the Bronx Bombers lost 2 of 3 in Toronto; however, the Yankees’ sole victory ensured they couldn’t be caught for a Wild Card spot and Aaron Judge belted two more home runs on Sunday to make it 48 for the season with one week to go.
The closest race now is for the AL’s best record and home-field advantage in the Division and Championship series stages. Corey Kluber got his 18th pitching win of the season on Sunday as Cleveland won 2 of 3 against Seattle, whilst the Houston Astros also won 2 of 3 against the Angels. That leaves Cleveland on a win-loss record of 98-58, 2.5 games ahead of the Astros on 95-60.
Boston will have home-field advantage all week, with a 3-game series against Toronto and then a 4-game series against Houston.
The New York Yankees are also at home all week. They have one make-up game against Kansas City on Monday before a 3-game series against Tampa Bay and then a 3-game series against Toronto.
Verdict: As both teams face Toronto three times, when you look at the other games marginally you could give the edge to the Yankees in facing the Royals and Rays rather than the Astros. However, the Yankees are so far behind that it’s unlikely the division will still be up for grabs by the time the Blue Jays head to the Bronx.
Minnesota have one hand on an unlikely Wild Card. They have Monday off before a tough 3-game series in Cleveland and given the way the Indians have been reeling off wins for fun, that does offer the potential that the Twins will not have clinched before their final 3-game home series against Detroit.
Among the chasing pack, Texas are at home all week with a 3-game series against Houston and then a 4-game series against Oakland. Kansas City will also be at home after the make-up game against the Yankees on Monday, playing three against Detroit and then an inter-league 3-game series against Arizona. The LA Angels start on the road with a 4-game series against the Chicago White Sox before ending with a 3-game home series against Seattle.
Verdict: Given the Twins’ lead, someone’s going to need to go at least 6-1, if not 7-0, to have a chance.
The Rangers look like being in a difficult position with their remaining games (the A’s are playing well of late), whilst the Royals’ season finale against Arizona could depend on how the D-Backs approach it as they concentrate on setting themselves up for the NL Wild Card game.
The major scenario here is in the Angels sweeping the White Sox, which is certainly possibly, whilst the Twins get swept by Cleveland (ditto). You would still back the Twins to keep hold of the Wild Card even if that happened, though.