Nick Kirby is away on his honeymoon this week. You are stuck with me for one more week.

The Cubs officially clinched the division Thursday night on a Cardinals loss to the Giants.

CHC 94 55 .631
STL 78 71 .523 16.0
PIT 74 75 .497 20.0
MIL 68 82 .453 26.5
CIN 63 86 .423 31.0

The Cardinals are still sitting outside the wild card playoff picture just 1.0 game behind the San Francisco Giants for the 2nd wild card spot. The Pirates made up one game to pull within five games back. However, with just two weeks left to play, they are running out of time. If the standings remain as-is, it would mark the first time that the NL Central is not represented in the wild card play-in game.

NYM 80 69 .537 +1
SF 79 70 .530
STL 78 71 .523 1.0
MIA 74 75 .497 5.0
PIT 74 75 .497 5.0

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds were officially eliminated from the playoffs this week, going 3-4 for the second week in a row. This time it was the Pirates who won three of the four games played, marking the last time that the Reds and Pirates will play each other this season.

The Reds face the remaining NL Central clubs over the next two weeks. This upcoming week, the Reds will play a three game series in Chicago before head to Milwaukee for the final three of this season against the Brewers.

Chicago Cubs

As noted above, the Cubs officially clinched the division on a Cardinals loss mid-week. The Cubs won two of three against the Cardinals to start the week, but then lost three of four to the Brewers. The Cubs have a six game lead on the best record in baseball and are giving players off days to get everyone healthy for the playoffs.

The Cubs will host the Reds to start this week before the Cardinals come to town for a three game series. All three weekend games versus St. Louis will be aired nationally. Friday at 2:00pm and Sunday at 8:00pm will be on ESPN while the Saturday game will be on FOX at 1:00pm.

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals had a very rough start to the week, dropping two of three to the Cubs and then losing the first two games against the (then) NL wild card leading Giants. During a mid-week three game losing streak, the Cardinals were outscored 21-4 (including this 6-2 loss at the hand of Johnny Cueto.) However, they rebounded to win the final two games of the Giants series. Those wins brought them back to within 1 game of the second wild card spot AND bounced the Giants from their perch atop the wild card standings. The Giants, who had a 6.5 game lead in their division at the All Star break, now has just a slim 1 game lead for the second wild card spot.

As for the Cardinals, they will be on the road all week with three games in Colorado and the three nationally televised games mentioned above against the Chicago Cubs.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates are five games back with a couple of teams to leapfrog if they want to play in the NL wild card game for the 4th straight season. They took 5 of 8 against the Phillies and Reds, but needed to do better than that to close the gap in the NL playoff race. They will have three more “easy” games this week against Milwaukee before their final three series against the Nationals, Cubs, and Cardinals.

Unfortunately for the Pirates, they will have to make this run without one of their better young pitchers, Gerrit Cole. Cole was placed on the 60-day DL after Monday’s Phillies game with right elbow posterior inflammation. At this point, Cole is expected to rehab in the offseason and return for Spring training in 2017.

Milwaukee Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers are still technically in the wild card race. But with an elimination number of “2”, they will likely find themselves officially out this week. The Brewers took three of four games against the Cubs over the weekend. They will get a chance to play spoiler to the Pirates postseason hopes to start this week. Then, the Brewers will host Cincinnati over the weekend.