The Chicago Cubs magic number to clinch the National League Central Division is down to 5 after the Cardinals 2-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday, coupled with the Cubs 9-5 win at Houston.
The magic number for a team looking to clinch their division goes down by one for each one of their wins and each of the second place team’s losses.
As the Cardinals continue their homestand with the next three games against the Cubs, that magic number will reduce by two with each Cubs’ win or stay pat with a Cards’ victory. St. Louis hopes to avoid watching Chicago celebrate their first division title since 2008 on their home field.
For that to happen it would take the Cardinals getting swept. However, the bigger picture for St. Louis is that a sweep could also put them in a hole for a Wild Card spot that could be tough to dig out from.
Here’s a look at the pitching matchups for this series:
Game one: Kyle Hendricks vs. Mike Leake
Hendricks has MLB’s best ERA at 2.07, and he’s given up three or fewer earned runs in each of his last 19 starts. However, he’s 0-1 in two starts vs. the Cards this season. As Leake returned from a bout with shingles for his first start in 17 days, Leake threw 75 pitches in 4.1 innings in a no-decision against the Pirates on Wednesday.
Game two: Jason Hammel vs. Jaime Garcia
Hammel is 5-7 with a 5.26 ERA on the road. Two of those wins have come in St. Louis. Garcia has lost four straight starts and has an 8.06 ERA over his last five starts.
Game three: Jon Lester vs. Carlos Martinez
If these teams were to meet in the NLDS, assuming Adam Wainwright would start the one-game Wild Card, this would most likely be the first game matchup at Wrigley Field.
Since July 29, Lester has posted a 6-0 record with a 1.17 ERA and 53 strikeouts, limiting opposing batters to a .191 batting average. Martinez has won four straight starts and allowed seven earned runs in 34 innings during that stretch. Over his next two starts, he’ll reach a career high with innings pitched going over 183.