A Kris Bryant grand slam in the top of the third Saturday night put the Cubs up, 5-2, and it looked like they might be able to take care of business on their own. Instead, the White Sox stormed back with a funky bottom of the fourth — highlighted by Jose Abreu’s clutch, bases-clearing double — and went on to victory over their cross-town rivals.
Still, the Cubs’ magic number was one and the Cardinals loss at home to the Brewers did the trick. The Cubs are the 2020 NL Central champions. It’s their sixth Central title and third in the last five seasons.
There wasn’t a ton of drama here after the Cubs won and the Cardinals lost (one of their two games) on Friday. The question was more when than if after that. The real drama in the NL Central heads into the (maybe!) last day of the season.
With just one regular-season day to go, possibly (we’ll get to that), here’s where the 2-3-4 teams in the division stand:
- The Cardinals are 29-28. If it is determined their still-lingering doubleheader against the Tigers needs to be played on Monday, they’ll end up with 60 games and the outcomes are rather unpredictable. For now, they are clinging to a playoff spot, holding down the five seed by .001 point over the Marlins.
- The Reds are 30-29 heading to Sunday and will face the Twins, who need to either win or see the White Sox lose to clinch the AL Central. As such, it figures to be a tough game for the Reds. As things stand, the Reds are the seven seed, though by games they are technically tied with the Cardinals for the five.
- The Brewers are 29-30. If they beat the Cardinals on Sunday, both teams will be .500 and the Brewers would have the tiebreaker. Of course, the Cardinals might then play on Monday and have a shot to win two and pass the Brewers back. For now, the Brewers are tied for the eight with the Giants, who lost Saturday to fall to 29-30.
The Phillies lost on Saturday, moving them to 28-31 and they hold the tiebreaker over the Brewers, so they could still be a factor here as well. We know the Reds have clinched a playoff spot, but we don’t know where they will slot. That leaves the Cardinals, Brewers, Giants and Phillies for two playoff spots with the 5-8 seeds being totally fluid.
The bottom line is that Sunday matters for three NL Central teams. If the Brewers beat the Cardinals and the Reds lose, all three will be exactly .500 and the bet is the Cardinals then have to play their doubleheader on Monday. It’s pretty jumbled and incredibly fun with all the games starting around the same time on Sunday. It’s possible the Central sends four teams to the playoffs. It’s also possible only the Cubs and Reds go.
As for the Cubs winning the Central, the Golden Age of Cubs baseball continues. Yes, the franchise was downtrodden for so long and many other teams wouldn’t consider this an outstanding era, but for the Cubs, making the playoffs five out of six years with three division titles, (at least) three trips to the NLCS, one pennant and a World Series title qualifies as the best era the club has seen since 1906-10. It’s something about which for decades Cubs fans only dared dream.