With 18 games to go, the 6 remaining playoff scenarios for the Cubs

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The six remaining scenarios for the Cubs in their stretch run.

Only a week ago it seemed a foregone conclusion the would win the and play the in the NLDS.

The Cubs were reverting to form, the Nationals were running away with the East and the were headed for the best record in baseball.

Cubs fans quickly booked rooms at Washington-area hotels, updated their iPhone calendars and starting speculating in earnest about Cubs-Nationals pitching matchups. 

But then September happened, and now the NL playoff picture is as fuzzy as a UHF station on an old Zenith.

The Dodgers, out of nowhere, became the worst team in baseball, while the Cubs, despite their talent, failed to put away their two closest pursuers, the and .

How will it all play out?

With 18 games remaining, here are the six remaining scenarios for the Cubs:

  • Cubs eke out division, meet Nationals in NLDS

Despite making their fans sweat in cool weather, first baseman asked them to rally around the Cubs “instead of maybe panicking a little bit,” mistaking head-shaking with panic. The Cubs are happy just to get in, knowing what they’re capable of once the postseason begins. Whether they get in by one game or 15 doesn’t matter when Game 1 starts. Despite everything that has happened, this still seems to be the most likely ending. The Cubs have a chance to push the Cardinals back this weekend at Wrigley Field and play in Milwaukee and St. Louis on the final road trip. It’s all in their hands. They played well with their backs to the wall against the Dodgers and Indians in last year’s postseason, but that team was obviously better than this edition.

  • Cubs clinch division early, meet Nationals in NLDS

They were able to do this last year, backing into a division title on Sept. 15 with a late Cardinals loss in San Francisco. There was no real celebration that night, though David Ross stopped into a Wrigleyville bar after a rickshaw ride and did a shot with a bartender who recognized him. By clinching so early the Cubs were able to use the final two weeks to rest players and get their rotation in order for the postseason. It might be too late for that now, but they could still go on a run, as Rizzo suggested, and win by four or five games. That would give them enough time to juggle the rotation for the Nats, who will be well-rested with and , or vice-versa, in Games 1 and 2 at Nationals Park. Manager Joe Maddon gave most players rest during the season, so that shouldn’t be an issue in October. The Cubs still would go in as the underdogs, though Rizzo believes no one would perceive them as such.

  • Cubs eke out division, meet Dodgers in NLDS

This was a scenario no one envisioned when the Dodgers recently were referred to as “Best. Team. Ever?” in a Sports Illustrated cover story. But with the great collapse still in progress and a three-game series in Washington on tap this weekend, the Dodgers easily could lose out to the Nats for best record and face the Central Division winner in the opening round. They were 4½ games ahead entering play Wednesday. Then it would be up to the Cubs, who would’ve had to fight to the end to make it in themselves, to put an exclamation mark on the Dodgers’ epic choke. If not, it's one-and-done for the defending world champions.

  • Cubs clinch division early, meet Dodgers in NLDS

Both teams would be able to realign their rotations, so a - matchup in Game 1 could be the key. Last year Lester outdueled the ’ in Game 1 of the NLDS, a 1-0 Cubs win, and ended it in four games. Jake Arrieta would be a wild card because we don’t know how he’ll react to the time off from his hamstring injury. Still, it’s only a best-of-five series and the Dodgers would be heading in on a down note after their September plunge. The Cubs might have an edge they otherwise wouldn’t have had if they clinched early and played the Nationals. And remember, Kyle Hendricks beat Kershaw in Game 6 of the NLCS last year.

  • Cubs win second wild-card spot, meet Diamondbacks in wild-card game

It’s not the end of the world if the Cubs blow the NL Central to the Cardinals or Brewers. It’ll only feel like it. And if the Cubs edge the -- who had a 1½ game lead over them Wednesday -- and the other Central contenders for the second NL wild-card spot, they’d still get a shot to move on with a win-or-die wild-card game against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix. Arizona would likely start Zack Greinke -- 13-1 with a 2.33 ERA at  -- and certainly would be favored. But these wild-card games are typically a crapshoot. Mets ace Noah Syndergaard threw seven shutout innings in last year’s game against the Giants, but the Mets still lost 3-0. That’s why winning the division is so important.

  • Cubs blow division, wild card

Panic time.

Twitter @PWSullivan

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Article With 18 games to go, the 6 remaining playoff scenarios for the Cubs compiled by Original article here

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