Back in June, I asked if this could be the season the Cubs and Reds both contend in the same year. It has officially happened, as each team continues vying for a playoff spot with less than two weeks to go. You have to go way back to 1995 and then 1972 as the last two years each team was above .500 in the same season. Both teams have given themselves a chance this year- an opportunity both fan bases would have gladly taken at the beginning of the year.
The Milwaukee Brewers have a comfortable lead in the NL Central, leaving the Wildcard as the possible postseason ticket for both Cincy and Chicago. Three teams earn a playoff berth through the Wild Card, and Philadelphia is in great position for the first spot. That leaves Chicago, Cincinnati, Arizona, and Miami: Four teams, for two spots.
The Cubs were in great position about 10 days ago, but they decided to go full 2004 or 2019 mode, going 2-8 in a brutal stretch at a terrible time. The good news for the Cubbies: They play the Pirates and Rockies at home all week, giving themselves a chance to get hot once again. The cushion they previously built has kept them alive despite the big slump. The Cubs do not own the tiebreaker over any of the other teams in contention, so they will need to finish with a better record, and it’s going to be close.
For the Reds: It’s been a year of streaks and slumps, highlighted by the big 11-game win streak in the middle of the season. They’ve got an exciting young team, and have tried to scrape together enough pitching to go along with their offense. Down the stretch, will this young team play carefree and get hot again? Or will their youth get the best of them when the games matter the most?
After Pittsburgh and Colorado, the Cubs finish the season with a six game road trip in Atlanta and Milwaukee. That sounds like a daunting task, though both of those teams may be resting some players, having already clinched playoff spots. For the Reds, the final two weeks includes home games with Minnesota and Pittsburgh, followed by a five game road trip in Cleveland and St. Louis. Miami has several games left with the Mets, and also plays Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. Arizona plays the Giants, Yankees, White Sox, and Astros in their final series.
Stressful baseball is the best baseball. It means your team has a chance. The Cubs and Reds have both overachieved in the eyes of many this season. I believe both teams have a bright future ahead. While it would be disappointing for either team if they missed the playoffs, it has still be an enjoyable season, with a glimpse of what is to come. And if you’re a fan of either team, enjoy yourself in the last few weeks. It’s a breath of fresh air to be playing meaningful baseball again.
Tyler Smith covers the Indiana Pacers and Indiana Hoosiers for IndySportsLegends and is a frequent contributor to the Journal Review. He is also the youth and sports pastor at New Hope Christian Church.