MLB Postseason Picture: Cubs get back on track in return to Wrigley Field

Mark Townsend
Yahoo Sports Contributor

It’s September, so the baseball games matter a little more. That’s why every day between now and the start of the postseason we’ll keep you updated on baseball’s postseason picture.

The Chicago Cubs are back home, which is very good news for them.

After a 3-5 road trip through Milwaukee and San Diego turned their four-game lead over the Brewers for the NL’s second wild card spot into a dead heat, Chicago got back to its winning ways at Wrigley Field on Friday, topping the Pirates, 17-8.

That’s the good news. The better news for the Cubs is that they regained sole possession of the second wild card thanks to Milwaukee’s loss in St. Louis.

Now the Cubs, who are 48-24 at home this season, are hoping to create some separation while playing at the friendly confines. They have 10 games remaining at home this season and seven more on the road, where they’ve disappointed with a 31-44 mark.

The Cubs lead over Milwaukee is one game. The Philadelphia Phillies are 2.5 games back and the New York Mets are now three games back after losing to the Dodgers.

The Washington Nationals hold the NL’s top wild card by 2.5 games over Chicago.

The Chicago Cubs have been much happier this season at Wrigley Field. (Getty Images)

Here’s how the rest of the postseason picture looks heading into Saturday.

Magic Number Countdown

YANKEES: Their magic number to clinch the AL East is still five after losing to the Blue Jays, 6-5, on a Bo Bichette walk-off home run.

BRAVES: Atlanta took care of business Friday night, defeating the second-place Washington Nationals, 5-0. The Braves magic number to clinch the NL East is now six.

ASTROS: They ended a three-game losing streak with a 4-1 win against the Royals. The A’s also won, which means the Astros magic number to clinch the AL West is seven.

THE REST: The Cardinals magic number in the NL Central is 12 after blowing out the Brewers, 10-0. The Minnesota Twins were rained out, keeping their magic number to clinch the AL Central at 13.

ALREADY CLINCHED: The Los Angeles Dodgers clinched their seventh straight NL West title on Sept. 10.

Key Races

AL WILD CARD: The A’s and Rays both won. The A’s maintain their half a game lead over the Rays for the top wild card spot. The Rays are one game up on the Indians for the second wild card.

NL CENTRAL: The Cardinals lead over the Cubs is still four games. Those legendary rivals will play seven times in the final two weeks.

AL CENTRAL: Mother Nature rained on the Twins-Indians series opener in Cleveland. The Twins will take a 3.5-game lead into Saturday’s doubleheader.

Games to Watch

• Minnesota Twins vs. Cleveland Indians (1:10 p.m. ET, 7:10 p.m. ET) — Let's play two. Friday's series opener was rained out after two-plus innings, so the teams will start over and play a day-night doubleheader on Saturday. That opens the door for a potential four-game swing as a sweep for Minnesota raises their lead to 5.5 games and a sweep for Cleveland narrows it to 1.5.

• Milwaukee Brewers vs. St. Louis Cardinals (7:15 p.m. ET) — The Brewers were overpowered in the series opener. How they bounce back against a locked in Cardinals team on Saturday might tell us if they can remain viable without Christian Yelich.

Elimination Watch

• The end has come for the Texas Rangers, who somewhat surprisingly entered the weekend with a .500 record. Unfortunately, that’s not good enough to compete in a loaded American League. The next closest team to elimination is the Pittsburgh Pirates with an elimination number of one.

• Teams whose postseason dreams are already over: Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners, Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Angels and Colorado Rockies.

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