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What is the Cubs’ magic number to clinch playoff spot?

We’re tracking how Chicago is doing in terms of wrapping up a playoff berth.

Seiya Suzuki of the Chicago Cubs hits a single in the fourth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park on September 28, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

9/30 update: Even for a franchise with a history of September heartbreak, this month has been hard to swallow. After three consecutive gut-punch losses to the Braves this week, the Cubs opened their must-win series with the Brewers in Milwaukee on Friday night with another walk-off defeat — this time after rallying to tie things up with two runs in the eighth and another in the top of the ninth. As the below post has been updated to reflect, Chicago’s playoff path just got much, much narrower: Basically, the Cubs need to win their last two games and hope the Marlins lose out from here.

Hard as it is to believe, we’ve officially reached the final weekend of the 2023 MLB regular season. Five of the league’s six divisional races have been decided, but there’s still plenty to be settled over the next few days — including the NL Wild Card, where two spots are still up for grabs. It seemed like the Cubs were dark horse pennant contenders earlier this summer, but a September swoon — and a gut-punch sweep at the hands of the Braves this week — has left Chicago now on the outside looking in. Let’s take a look at where the Cubs stand with a three days left in the season and their scenarios for sealing up a postseason berth.

Cubs’ magic number

It’s hard to overstate how far Chicago has fallen of late, punctuated by not one, not two but three tough losses in Atlanta — each of which could’ve been wins were it not for a single crucial mistake. The Cubs are now a half-game back of Miami for the final NL Wild Card spot, with the Marlins still yet to finish the ninth inning of another potential win against the Mets after Thursday’s rain postponement.

So, what does that mean for the North Siders? Well, they’ll need at least some help to reach October. Chicago can still actually catch Arizona for the second NL Wild Card spot: The Snakes hold the season-series tiebreaker, but Chicago is just two games back; if they sweep the Brewers — who will be resting Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta in preparation for the postseason — and the D-backs get swept at home by the Astros, the Cubs will edge out Arizona.

If Arizona wins at least one game this weekend, though, things become trickier. The most likely scenarios involve a Chicago sweep in Milwaukee. If the Cubs win their final three games, they can make the postseason with two Marlins losses in their last four (including that makeup against the Mets on Monday). If Chicago wins only two, they need three Marlins losses and at least one Reds loss this weekend against the Cardinals. They can even still back in by only winning one of three against the Brewers, but they’d need Miami to lose out and Cincy to lose two of three.

Cubs playoff scenarios

  • Cubs win 3 of 3, Diamondbacks lose 3 of 3
  • Cubs win 3, Marlins lose 2 of 4
  • Cubs win 2, Marlins lose 3, and Reds lose 1 of 3
  • Cubs win 1, Marlins lose 4, and Reds lose 2

NL Wild Card standings

1. Philadelphia Phillies (89-70)
2. Arizona Diamondbacks (84-76)
3. Miami Marlins (83-76)

4. Chicago Cubs (82-78), 0.5 GB
5. Cincinnati Reds (82-78), 1.5 GB