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.

Report: Guardians, 1B Josh Bell reach 2-year, $33M deal

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SAN DIEGO — The Cleveland Guardians and slugging first baseman Josh Bell have agreed to a two-year, $33 million contract, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal was pending a review of medical records.

Bell played for Washington and San Diego last season, batting .266 with 17 homers and 71 RBIs in 156 games.

Cleveland is coming off a surprising 2022 season, going 92-70 and winning the AL Central for the first time since 2018. The addition of Bell gives the Guardians more power for their lineup after they hit just 127 homers this year – the second-lowest total in the majors.

The 30-year-old Bell is a .262 hitter with 130 homers and 468 RBIs over seven seasons with three big league teams. He had his best year with Pittsburgh in 2019, making the NL All-Star team while batting .277 with 37 homers and 116 RBIs in 143 games.

The switch-hitting Bell also is expected to benefit from restrictions on defensive positioning coming to the game next year.