Scoreboard Watching: A New Second Place Team, Deciding the AL Central, Cubs Magic Number, More – bleachernation.com

Having walked the Cleveland Indians off for the second straight game, the Chicago Cubs saw their NL Central lead increase to a season high 5.5 games (well, tied with where they were way back after that insane 13-3 start to the season).

But the second place team – by .001 –  is no longer the Cardinals, and is instead the rather hot Reds, winners of five in a row. Of course, the last four of those five wins came against the Pirates, who might be one of the worst teams of the last decade. The Reds have a tough road in their final three series of the year: White Sox, Brewers, Twins.

In any case the Cubs win coupled with the Cardinals loss yielded another double drop day for the Cubs Magic Number, which stands at just 8 for the division with 10 Cubs games remaining.

To clinch any playoff spot at all, the Cubs Magic Number is just 5. Both Magic Numbers have shrunk dramatically since Saturday night, as the Cubs helped themselves to a comeback win against the Brewers, a no-hitter, and then two walk-offs.

The Cubs also helped themselves in another way by mini-sweeping the Indians (again). Last night’s loss was the 8th in a row for Cleveland (oof), pushing them 6.0 games behind the White Sox in the AL Central. The Sox are up 2.0 on the Twins, and the closer they come to clinching a playoff spot or even the top spot in the AL Central, the greater the chances they’ll be in “rest” mode for the final series of the year against the Cubs. To be sure, we hope the Cubs will have long clinched by then and can also be in “rest” mode. But juuuuuuust in case things go screwy, it would be fine with me if the White Sox didn’t really have much to play for in that series. The Cubs can help some more starting tomorrow night when they play the Twins for three.

Speaking of all that, man, the Cubs sure do have an outsized say in who wins the AL Central? Just two games separating the Sox and Twins, and three games apiece for those teams coming against the Cubs. How wild would it be if the Cubs are in rest mode for the final series but the White Sox are not … and then the Cubs’ bench lineup costs the White Sox the AL Central? (Hey, it’s not like the Cubs’ bench lineup hasn’t done it before to a rival.)