The latest on all of Major League Baseball’s remaining pennant races, as we sail toward the regular-season finales on Sunday:
Monday’s big winner: The Chicago Cubs. Not only did they move one win closer to clinching the NL Central by beating the Cardinals in St. Louis, they also saw an improved outing from Jon Lester, who gave up just one earned run in six innings. Perhaps he’ll be OK come playoff time.
Monday’s big loser: With seven losses in eight games, Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels have seen their playoff chances slip away. With six games remaining, the Angels trail the Minnesota Twins by five games for the second AL wild card. Their chances of winning the wild card is less than 1% (0.4%), according to Fangraphs.com.
Magic matters: The Cubs can clinch the NL Central for a second straight year with a win against the Cardinals or a loss by the Milwaukee Brewers, who play the Cincinnati Reds.
The Twins can clinch an AL wild card and their first postseason berth since 2010 with a win at Cleveland and an Angels loss to the Chicago White Sox. The Twins are the 13th team in big league history, and first since the 2009 Seattle Mariners, to go from 100-plus losses to a winning record the following season.
Boston’s magic number to clinch a second straight division title remains at three. The Red Sox lead the second-place New York Yankees by four games with six remaining.
Today’s can’t-miss game: Cubs vs. Cardinals. The defending World Series champion Cubs can punch their playoff ticket with a win. Jake Arrieta (14-9, 3.43 ERA) takes the mound for the Cubs against Carlos Martinez (12-11, 3.63), who gave up seven runs to Chicago on Sept. 15.