And then there were eight. Eight regular-season games left for the Cubs and the same for the White Sox, with a series between the teams beginning Friday at Guaranteed Rate Field sure to keep everything at a roiling boil.
For a change, the head-to-head drama might be less about rivalry rhetoric and more — much more — about banners and potentially all-important playoff seeding. See, this is the sort of thing that can happen when both teams are — at the same time and everything — pretty dang good. Who knew?
Speaking of eight, that’s how many teams will make the so-called “wild card” round in each league, with higher-seeded teams hosting best-of-three affairs at home ballparks before the winners head off to bubbles in Texas and Southern California. You don’t need us to tell you that any team, anywhere, can win a best-of-three; there will be some upsets. Still, where the Cubs and Sox land in their leagues’ 1-through-8 pictures seems like a mighty big deal.
For the Cubs, the week begins as a battle with the NL East-leading Braves for the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds behind the runaway Dodgers. A 2 seed would mean welcoming a third-place opponent to Wrigley Field. A 3 seed would mean hosting a second-place foe.
In the less-cluttered AL, it’s simpler. If the Sox want to be sure to avoid the Yankees in the wild-card round, they must hold off the Twins and break the tape in the Central. A postseason run looks more promising if it begins with the Indians (whom they’ll face four times this week, by the way), Blue Jays or Astros.
Here’s what’s happening:
Tour de France, final stage (8:30 a.m., NBCSN)
There’s nothing like the mad scramble down the Champs-Elysees in Paris as the champion meets his destiny. It’s kind of like the Bears’ fourth quarter in the opener in Detroit, only without D’Andre Swift around to drop a sure touchdown pass.
U.S. Open, final round (11 a.m., Ch. 5)
Americans Matthew Wolff and Bryson DeChambeau (combined major titles: zero) top the board heading into Sunday. One has a mad, knee-buckling swing. The other is called the “Mad Scientist.” We’ll let you figure out who’s who.
Giants at Bears (noon, Ch. 2)
The Bears haven’t been 2-0 since they started 3-0 way back in 2013, and you remember what happened in 2013, don’t you? [Checks notes.] OK, so forget about the past … .
Patriots at Seahawks (7:20 p.m., Ch. 5)
Prime-time Pats with Cam Newton in for Tom Brady? That’s going to take some getting used to, yet there’s something about it that’s undeniably fresh, delightfully strange and maybe, just maybe, a little crazy. But enough about Newton’s postgame outfits.
Stars at Lightning, Game 2 (7 p.m., NBCSN)
Each team entered the Stanley Cup finals having scored 61 goals during the postseason. The LIghtning had surrendered 43. The Stars? Try 63. Hey, whatever works.
Saints at Raiders (7:15 p.m., ESPN)
Just win, baby? Especially in Vegas, baby. Let’s have us a look-see for the first time at Allegiant Stadium, the sparkling new home of the Raiders. Word on the street is it’s even nicer than the Oakland Coliseum.
White Sox at Indians (5:10 p.m., NBCSCH)
A recent eight-game losing streak likely ended any shot the Indians had at a division title, but they still can pitch like nobody’s business. Enter Cy Young shoo-in Shane Bieber — yep, this’ll be a toughie.
Lakers at Nuggets, Game 3 (8 p.m., TNT)
How ticked off is LeBron James after receiving only 16 first-place votes out of 104 for MVP? Put it this way: The Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and his 88 votes are lucky to be out of the playoffs.
Celtics at Heat, Game 4 (7:30 p.m., ESPN)
The more you watch the Heat play, the more you have to be impressed by star Jimmy Butler, versatile big man Bam Adebayo, fearless rookie Tyler Herro and coach Erik Spoelstra. Jeez, LeBron, there’s no need to laugh.
Cubs at Pirates (12:35 p.m., MSN)
This is it — the last game against a terrible team all season. Unless you want to call some of the NL’s .500ish playoff hopefuls “terrible,” which wouldn’t be the world’s most egregious overstatement.
Dolphins at Jaguars (7:20 p.m., NFL)
Miami QB Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three INTs, with zero TDs, in a Week 1 loss to the Patriots. Jacksonville’s Gardner Minshew threw for three TDs, with zero INTs, in a Week 1 win against the Colts. Which of these guys used to back up Nick Foles again?
Cubs at White Sox (7:10 p.m., MSN, NBCSCH)
Now we’re talking. A World Series preview? We won’t go that far, but just imagine if both teams do make it. Is there a Red Line stop outside Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas?
Notre Dame at Wake Forest (11 a.m., Ch. 7)
Man, do the Irish — going for a 3-0 start — ever play a team that isn’t from the South? Next thing we know, Brian Kelly will end a Zoom press conference with, “Y’all come back and see us now, ya hear?”
Washington at Red Stars (noon, Ch. 2)
We keep hearing the Red Stars are less focused on results than they are on player development, but for a national TV game on CBS? Let’s see that A-game, please.
Mississippi State at LSU (2:30 p.m., Ch. 2)
Bonkers coach Mike Leach makes his Bulldogs debut against the defending champs, who’ve lost QB Joe Burrow and both coordinators from last year’s squad. Upset alert?