Chicago Cubs: Playoff spot up for grabs as Game 162 closes in

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs have good odds to win another division title. But their lead is far from rock solid – as is the case with several other teams looking to October.

In 2011, four teams were vying for two playoff spots in the last game of the season.  In the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals were vying for the NL wild-card spot against the Atlanta Braves.  The Cardinals beat the last-place Astros,  the Braves lost to the last-place Phillies, and the Cardinals went to the playoffs (eventually going on to win the World Series).

In the American League, the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays were also battling for the Wild Card spot.  In perhaps the most exciting end to a baseball season in recent memory, the 69-93 Baltimore Orioles beat the Boston Red Sox in the ninth inning on a Nolan Reimold double to score pinch-runner Kyle Hudson to tie the game, then at 12:02 A.M., Robert Andino singled to score Reimold to win the game.

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Minutes later, Evan Longoria‘s solo home run clinched the wild card spot for the Rays and eliminated the Red Sox from the postseason.  This Red Sox loss triggered perhaps the most significant events in baseball and Cubs history, as Chicago signed Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein even before the World Series was over.

So how is this season shaping up?  The AL East and Central divisions are set with Boston and Cleveland having clinched. The AL West is still a race between the reigning World Series champion Astros and the pesky Oakland A’s.  And the wild card spots are locked in, as well, with the Yankees and the team that comes in second in the AL West.

Drama brewing in the National League

It’s in the National League where we could see game 162 decide between division winners, wild card spots and not making the postseason at all.

There are six teams vying for five spots, with only one of those spots unlikely to change – the NL East.  Atlanta leads the division by 6 1/2 games, a sizable but not insurmountable lead over the Phillies.  The NL West is still a race between the Dodgers and Rockies, and the NL Central is now a legitimate three-team race with the Cubs leading the Brewers by 1 1/2 games and the Cardinals by 4 1/2s.  The wild card spots will come down to who wins the divisions in the Central and West.

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Schedule-wise in the NL Central, the Cubs finish the season with the Cardinals, who also play the Brewers. The Brewers finish with Detroit after next weekend’s Cardinals series.  In the NL West, the Dodgers have the Padres, the sagging Diamondbacks and the Giants.  The Rockies face the Diamondbacks, Phillies and Nationals.  The edge here has to go to the Dodgers to win the division.

In the American League, the A’s and Astros finish against spoiler teams. The Twins, Mariners and Angles for Oakland; the Angels, Blue Jays and Orioles for Houston.

Next. It's crunch time - and the Cubs need to buckle down. dark

As a result, Game 162 in 2018 won’t likely have all the drama it did in 2011. But depending on how certain teams play this next week it could definitely make for an exciting day of baseball all the same.