Cubs in control

The shortened 60-game regular season schedule ends Sunday. Through Monday only seven of the 16 teams to make the playoffs have clinched berths.

In the American League Tampa Bay, the Yankees, the White Sox, Minnesota and Oakland will be playing postseason baseball. In the National League only the Dodgers and San Diego are officially in.

Remember, for this postseason eight teams from each league will qualify — the three division winners and second-place teams plus the teams with the next best records. It’s possible that one or more the “Wild Card” teams will have a losing record. In fact, it’s still possible that the second-place teams in the AL West, NL East and NL Central could have losing or break even records. St. Louis, currently 26-25, will play only 58 games resulting from a multitude of COVID-19 related postponements.

The races for the Wild Card berths could come down to Saturday or Sunday and will be worth watching and betting.

The playoffs’ opening round (the Wild Card round) will be a best-of-three series with the higher-seeded team being the "home" team for each game to be played at the higher seed’s home ballpark. Neutral sites will be used following the Wild Card round with the Divisional rounds in the American League to be played in Los Angeles and San Diego and the National League series in Houston and Arlington.

There will also be no off-days scheduled for the Divisional and Championship rounds, suggesting that a five-man rotation will be needed. However many teams have used “openers” to a great extent during regular-season play, asking the “starting” pitcher to go between one and three innings before turning the game over to middle and late relievers.

Perhaps the most surprising team that could make the playoffs is Miami. The Marlins had a Season Wins Total of just 24.5 games. Yet at 28-26 through Monday, Miami is second in the NL East, one game ahead of Philadelphia.

The road for the Marlins is tough. Miami finishes the season with games at Atlanta and the Yankees. The Phillies also finish on the road with games at Washington and Tampa Bay.

The Cubs are likely winners of the NL Central, but second place is up for grabs between St. Louis and Cincinnati who were tied for second. This could be a wild finish as the Cards are scheduled to play just 58 games while the Reds are scheduled to play the full 60.  Second place — and the automatic playoff berth — could come down to winning percentage if the pair finished the same number of games behind the Cubs.

Because of the uncertain nature of how the weekend series will unfold vis-a-vis making the playoffs, the selections this week will involve playing on pitchers either in tuneups for starts in the layoffs or tuneups for 2021.

Friday/Saturday

Giants at Padres: San Diego is in the playoffs, likely finishing second to the Dodgers in the NL West and in position to be the four seed. Dinelson Lamet has been a major surprise with a 2.07 ERA and 0.87 WHIP in 11 starts covering 65 innings. The Padres are 9-2 in his starts.

San Francisco has faint hope of being the second Wild Card ,but those might be extinguished by the time Lamet is set to start. If alive, the Giants could be favored. But the play is on the 28-year-old Dominican who may have established himself as a key component of next season’s rotation and is poised for a nice postseason run. LAMET over Giants

Saturday/Sunday

Angels at Dodgers: The Angels’ Dylan Bundy is having a fine debut season in Los Angeles. He’s made 11 starts with a 3.29 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in nearly 66 innings. He has a solid 72/17 strikeout-to-walk split and will be facing a Dodgers team likely to rest starters with the playoffs set to begin a couple of days later.

As a result, Bundy might actually be a slight favorite. He’s projected to face Dustin May, who’s also pitched well in his first season as a full-time starter. Due to the playoffs, he may be on a limited pitch count and the Dodgers might use several relievers tuning up for postseason baseball. BUNDY over Dodgers

Mariners at Athletics: Oakland has clinched the AL West title and will be a top-three seed. Seattle should be eliminated by the weekend.

If Seattle is still playing for the playoffs, this remains an attractive play as their best starter, Marco Gonzales, is scheduled to start Sunday. After a most impressive effort on Monday, he could be moved up to Saturday if the game has meaning. In 10 starts, the 28-year-old lefty is pitching to a 3.06 ERA and 0.91 WHIP over 65 innings, striking 59 while walking just 6.

He was roughed up by Oakland two starts back and should be motivated to make amends for that effort against a team likely to rest regulars. GONZALES over Athletics

Last week: 1-1

Season: 15-8