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.