MLB Magic Number Watch: Cubs head to St. Louis with division title within reach

The Arizona Diamondbacks will host the NL wild-card game. That much of the postseason picture was cleared up Sunday. We’ve still got two divisions — the AL East and NL Central — that need clinching and two wild-card spots up for grabs.

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Each day this week, we’ll be running down the postseason storylines around MLB in our Magic Number Watch. Let’s get started:

Chicago Cubs’ Ben Zobrist, center, celebrates his two-run home run against the Milwaukee Brewers as he enters the dugout during the seventh inning of an baseball game Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Darren Hauck)

1. THE CUBS HAVE THE NL CENTRAL IN THEIR SIGHTS
The Chicago Cubs, leaders of the NL Central, have a magic number of two entering play Monday after a lively weekend series against the Milwaukee Brewers. And they’re playing a team with a lot on the line too. That’s the rival St. Louis Cardinals, who are still alive in both the Central and the NL wild-card race, though the odds are getting smaller by the day that they’ll play in October. The Cardinals are two-and-a-half back in the wild-card and six back in the division, so they’d basically need to sweep the Cubs to keep their division hopes alive.

The Cubs, meanwhile, can clinch as soon as Tuesday. The Brewers are the meat in the Cubs-Cardinals sandwich, holding onto second place and sitting five-and-a-half back. The Brewers are idle Monday, starting a series with the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday. A Cubs win and a Brewers loss seals the NL Central or just two Cubs wins.

The Cards-Cubs series should be fun to watch, however, because Ben Zobrist has said he hopes the Cubs clinch in St. Louis (you know, as opposed to losing) and Tommy Pham of the Cardinals is upset about that.


2. RED SOX HOST JAYS, LOOKING TO LOCK UP THE EAST
The Boston Red Sox return to Fenway Park on Monday, ready to host the Toronto Blue Jays for three games and they’d sure like to get the AL East clinched before the weekend. Entering their game Monday, the Red Sox magic number is three since the Yankees played early and won. If not against the Blue Jays, the Red Sox would need to clinch while hosting the AL West-winning Houston Astros.

3. TWINS, ANGELS BOTH NEED SOME WINS
The Minnesota Twins’ magic number to clinch the second AL wild-card is three entering play Monday. The Twins are idle, but start a series against the Indians in Cleveland on Tuesday. The Rays, Royals, Rangers and Angels are still mathematically alive for that spot, but only the Angels (four-and-a-half back) seem like they have a shot. And that’s shrinking by the day. The Angels do start their week playing the last-place Chicago White Sox, so the schedule is at least on their side.

4. THE SECOND NL WILD-CARD COULD COME DOWN TO THE WIRE
The Colorado Rockies hold onto the second NL wild-card spot, but they’ve got plenty of work to do to lock it up. The Rockies have a two-game lead over the Brewers and two-and-a-half over the Cardinals. But Colorado’s magic number is five, so it’s gonna take at least a few days.

The best news for the Rockies is that they get to try to seal the deal at home. They’ll host the Miami Marlins for three games starting Monday, then have an off day Thursday and finish the year against the Dodgers. Much like the Red Sox, the Rockies are probably hoping they can wrap things up before the final weekend.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!