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Cubs playoff update: Back in an NL Wild Card spot

Ryan Herrera Avatar
September 23, 2023

The Cubs got back in the win column after blanking the Rockies in the series opener Friday afternoon. And with the help of some other teams around the league, they enter Saturday with sole possession of the last National League Wild Card spot.

It’s a positive step after a tough start to the homestand. The end of the season isn’t far away, and the Cubs still have work to do make sure they play into October. But with eight games remaining and their postseason fate in their own hands, the Cubs have an opportunity to continue playing good baseball and lock down a playoff appearance.

Here is CHGO’s daily update on the Cubs’ postseason hopes and where things stand with the rest of the playoff contenders.

Play of the Day

Seiya Suzuki, have yourself a game.

With only a one-run lead in the middle innings thanks to Suzuki’s RBI single in the first, the Cubs got some breathing room from this two-run homer off their right fielder’s bat in the fourth against Colorado. Suzuki’s team is fighting for its playoff life at the moment, and he’s doing what he can to get them there.

Quote of the Day

“I know I’m at a place where numbers at this point don’t even matter anymore. It’s about just helping this team get wins down the stretch. I told myself that coming to the park today. This team went out and got me for a reason. I have an opportunity to go out and prove them right and have a good game on a day like today when we really needed it” — Jameson Taillon, despite his struggles throughout the season, making it clear he understands the Cubs’ current objective.


With the Brewers’ win Friday, there’s virtually no way for the Cubs to catch them in the NL Central standings. Milwaukee is eight games ahead, and their magic number is down to 1. Another Brewers victory or another Cubs loss will end the division race. So, earning a wild card bid is essentially Chicago’s only shot at the playoffs.

First, a reminder that there’s no more Game 163. Of the seven teams with any chance at a wild card spot, the Cubs own the tiebreaker (head-to-head record) over only the Giants and Padres, while they’d lose it to the Phillies, Diamondbacks, Marlins and Reds.

Here’s how each of those seven teams fared Friday:

  • Cubs: Beat the Rockies
  • Phillies: Beat the Mets
  • Diamondbacks: Lost to the Yankees
  • Marlins: Lost to the Brewers
  • Reds: Lost to the Pirates
  • Giants: Beat the Dodgers
  • Padres: Beat the Cardinals

All of those outcomes mean they remain five games back of Philadelphia in the standings, but they gained a game on everyone besides San Francisco and San Diego, who both still have a lot of ground to make up. The Cubs are now just one back of Arizona, and they’re one game ahead of Miami and 1 1/2 games ahead of the Reds for the last wild card spot.

With that, the Cubs have taken back control of their postseason fate. It’s up to them to stack up wins and keep the teams below them in the standings at bay.


The Cubs play Game 2 of their last home series of the regular season against the Rockies on Saturday before the finale on Sunday. Then, after an off day Monday, they’ll head to Atlanta for a three-game series before ending the regular season with three in Milwaukee.

Here are the remaining schedules for the the other top-seven teams in the wild card hunt:

  • Phillies: vs. NYM (2), vs. PIT (3), @ NYM (3)
  • Diamondbacks: @ NYY (2), @ CWS (3), vs. HOU (3)
  • Reds: vs. PIT (2), @ CLE (2), @ STL (3)
  • Marlins: vs. MIL (2), @ NYM (3), @ PIT (3)
  • Giants: @ LAD (2), vs. SD (3), vs. LAD (3)
  • Padres: vs. STL (2), @ SF (3), @ CWS (3)


According to FanGraphs’ playoff projections, the Cubs’ odds at clinching a wild card spot rose to 52.8 percent going into Saturday. Among the top-seven teams in the race, the Phillies (100 percent) and Diamondbacks (84 percent) are given better odds than the Cubs. They’ve finally moved ahead of the Marlins (41.9 percent) with the Reds (18 percent) not all that far behind, while the Giants (2.2 percent) and Padres (1.1 percent) aren’t completely out of it just yet.

Today’s pitching matchup

Surprise! Marcus Stroman (10-8, 3.76 ERA) will now start for the Cubs on Saturday for the first time since July 31, which David Ross announced at the end of his postgame presser Friday.

Through his first 16 starts, Stroman was the one at the forefront of the NL Cy Young conversation. He began the season 9-4 and posted a 2.28 ERA (which led all NL starters at the time). However, he went 1-4 and posted a 9.00 ERA in his next seven outings. Right hip inflammation that he tried to pitch through probably played a part in his struggles, and he went on the injured list at the beginning of August to address it. But just when he was expected to return, a right rib cartilage fracture extended his IL stint for another month.

Stroman returned last weekend and pitched two innings of relief on Sept. 15. Another inning out of the ‘pen followed the next day. That showed his body would respond well to pitching in a game setting again, providing the Cubs with another important arm in whichever role they needed.

It’s unclear what to expect out of his first start in nearly two months. Maybe he’ll be an opener. Maybe he’ll get to pitch for as long as his body will allow (and as long as he remains effective). Regardless, this is a clear sign that the Cubs trust him to start another important game off on the right foot.

The Rockies will counter with right-hander Chris Flexen (1-8, 7.19 ERA). Flexen joined Colorado’s rotation at the end of July. In those 10 starts, he’s posted a 6.75 ERA. He did hold the Cubs to three runs over 5 1/3 innings at Coors Field on Sept. 12, so they’ll need to find a way to be more productive at home.

Tweet of the Day

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