MLB postseason picture: Cubs extend NL Central lead behind David Bote's latest heroics

Yahoo Sports

September is upon us, which means every race in Major League Baseball is headed for the home stretch. Every game matters more than ever to the teams competing for a postseason spot. That’s why every night between now and the end of the regular season we’ll bring you an updated look at the MLB postseason picture.

Major League Baseball didn’t offer much competition to the opening night of the NFL season. Only four games were on the schedule, but at least three of those games featured teams in the postseason hunt.

Among them was a thriller in Washington D.C. that saw the Chicago Cubs widen their NL Central lead with a 6-4, 10-inning win against the Nationals.

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New fan favorite David Bote was the hero again, driving in the go-ahead run with a pinch-hit double in the tenth. It’s the latest in a string of clutch deliveries by Bote, especially against the Nationals. It was just three weeks ago that Bote hit a rare walk-off grand slam against the Nats that may have been the dagger in their postseason hopes.

As for the Cubs, their postseason hopes are alive and well. They lead the NL Central by 4.5 games over the Brewers and five games over the Cardinals, both of whom were idle.

Chicago Cubs fans wave the W flag after beating the Nationals in ten innings. (AP)
Chicago Cubs fans wave the W flag after beating the Nationals in ten innings. (AP)

KEY RACES

• NL East, West and Wild Card: The Braves won the opener of an important four-game weekend series that will impact the NL East, West and Wild Card standings, topping the Diamondbacks 7-6 in 10 innings.

Arizona tied the game with two outs in the ninth on Paul Goldschmidt’s home run, but Atlanta recovered quickly to score the game-deciding run in the next frame.

The Braves extended their lead in the East to 3.5 games over the Phillies. The D-backs lost ground in the West and Wild Card races. They’re 2.5 games behind first-place Colorado out West and three behind St. Louis for the second NL Wild Card. The Dodgers are one game ahead in both races.

• AL East: The Red Sox and Yankees were both idle Thursday. The Red Sox will host the defending World Series champion Houston Astros in the AL’s marquee weekend series. The Yankees will continue their west coast trip in Seattle. The Red Sox lead the division by 9.5 games.

• AL West: Likewise, the Astros, Athletics and Mariners were all off Thursday. Of note, the Athletics will catch a break in the schedule this weekend. While the Astros and Mariners battle tough AL East foes, the A’s will host the recently eliminated Rangers. Houston leads the division by 3.5 games over Oakland.

Francisco Lindor of the Indians celebrates with Jose Ramirez after hitting of two home runs on Thursday. (AP)
Francisco Lindor of the Indians celebrates with Jose Ramirez after hitting of two home runs on Thursday. (AP)

MAGIC NUMBER WATCH

Cleveland Indians: The Indians were one of the few playoff contenders in action Thursday. They picked up their 80th win of the season, topping the Blue Jays 9-4 in Toronto. Francisco Lindor led the way, cranking his 32nd and 33rd home runs of the season. With the win, Cleveland lowered its Magic Number to clinch the AL Central to seven.

ELIMINATION WATCH

The Tigers became the latest to be eliminated from postseason contention thanks to the Indians win. Cleveland’s win also dropped the Blue Jays elimination number down to two. They’re the next closest to joining the Orioles, Royals, White Sox, Padres as postseason outsiders.

FRIDAY’S MUST-SEE GAME

The National League West has been baseball’s tightest division race all season. Now we’ll get to see if the first-place Rockies can gain some separation over the weekend during a critical series with the second-place Dodgers. Friday’s series opener will be of particular interest as both team’s aces — Jon Gray and Clayton Kershaw — will be on the hill at Coors Field.

Of note, the Dodgers will be without closer Kenley Jansen for the entire series after doctors recommended he not travel back to Colorado due to a previous heart issue.

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