Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.
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The Cubs magic number is five

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Magic numbers — the combined number of a team’s wins and its pursuers’ losses which ensure that the win will clinch a playoff spot — are usually a topic for the last week or, maybe, last couple weeks of a season. The 2016 baseball season has three full weeks left in it, but it could feature a clinched division.

The Cubs beat up on the Astros last night, jumping out to a 9-0 lead and holding off a Houston rally to win it. That may have only been their second win in five games, but overall they’re cruising. They’re 91-51. They’ve won 6 of 10 in September and they’ve gone 28-10 since August 1. Their lead in the NL Central is now 16 games over the Cardinals. They have 20 games to go. That puts the old magic number at 5 for the Central title. Which is pretty darn impressive considering that the Cardinals are themselves playoff contenders.

Oh, and the Cubs and Cardinals face each other in a three-game series starting today. Which means that, if they sweep the series, the Cubs could clinch the division as early as Wednesday evening.

Settling the Scores: Sunday’s results

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I hope you had a nice weekend. I sure did. In addition to a nice 7-mile hike yesterday I started doing some genealogy research. Less because I’m interested in genealogy for its own sake — we’re most of us mutts by this point — and more because there is this old story my family tells about an axe murder and I wanted to see if it really happened.

Welp, it did. My great, great grandmother Nellie killed my great great grandmother Frank with an axe while he slept, back in December 1910. In her defense, this was merely to finish the job she failed to complete when she tried to burn him alive by rubbing grease on his pajamas and settling him on fire with a candle while he slept a few weeks before. He woke up and ruined that. Persistence, my friends. Persistence will get you where you want to be. In her case she apparently wanted to be in a state hospital for the criminally insane for the rest of her life. Who am I to judge?

Anyway, the woman on the far right here is my great, great grandma Nellie well before she murdered Frank. And, for our purposes, here is an ad that coincided with the Detroit Tigers just begun 1911 season that appeared in the same newspaper as one of the stories about the murder. The Tigers used to have WAY better sponsorship partners, that’s for dang certain. They finished in second place that year with 89 wins, which was a three-game improvement over 1910. Thanks, Blue Gulch Whiskey!

Just scores today as I have some non-genealogical business to attend to first thing this morning. Not the least of which is hiding all of this information I collected from my fiancee, who really doesn’t need to know that my ancestors were literally criminally insane.

Red Sox 11, Blue Jays 8: I should at least note that both Nellie and Frank were born in Simcoe, Ontario and Frank was buried there, so David Ortiz and Jackie Bradley Jr. weren’t the only people I read about killing Canadians yesterday.
Rays 4, Yankees 2
Orioles 3, Tigers 1
Marlins 3, Dodgers 0
Mets 10, Braves 3
Nationals 3, Phillies 2
Reds 8, Pirates 0
Royals 2, White Sox 0
Indians 7, Twins 1
Brewers 2, Cardinals 1
Angels 3, Rangers 2
Mariners 3, Athletics 2
Giants 5, Diamondbacks 3
Rockies 3, Padres 2
Cubs 9, Astros 5

Clayton Kershaw to return tonight

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Clayton Kershaw is back. He’ll take the mound for the Dodgers tonight. It’ll be the first time Kershaw has thrown a pitch in anger since June 26, in Pittsburgh.

When Kershaw went down the Dodgers were eight games behind the Giants, with a record of 41-36. Since then they’ve gone 38-24 and now find themselves thirteen games better in the standings, five up on those same Giants. This is not some Ewing Theory situation, of course — the Giants sucking eggs has had a whole lot to do with the Dodgers ascending — but the Dodgers being able to do what they’ve done without baseball’s best pitcher is pretty dang astounding. It’s mostly a function of the bullpen pitching fantastically, the offense taking a big leap forward and the rotation turning into an 11-man behemoth that, while not world-beating, has been far better than you’d think a cast its size would be.

Which is to say that getting a guy who went 11-2 with a 1.79 ERA and 145 strikeouts against only 9 unintentional walks in 121 innings is a good thing, regardless of how the club did without him. The only question now is what kind of stamina Kershaw has. He missed a lot of time and only threw three innings in his lone minor league rehab start. Sure, he struck out five guys in those three innings, but it wasn’t exactly the toughest competition.

He’ll be tested tonight, going head-to-head against Jose Fernandez and the Marlins at 7:10pm eastern in Miami. Definitely a game you should plan on watching if you have the ability.