I decided to recap the final day of the 2016 regular season with a “whiparound,” with highlights from all the important games in chronological order. Since MLB now starts all games on the final day at the same time (2 p.m. CT), it was necessary to do a lot of channel-flipping!
The Cubs came from behind in the ninth to win their 103rd of the season and complete the year 103-58 (with one tie) and an 18½-game lead in the N.L. Central.
This concludes this year’s Victories Revisited series. Tomorrow I’ll have some thoughts on the beginning of spring training.
The Cubs beat the Reds 7-4 with a four-run ninth late Sunday afternoon, posting their 103rd win of 2016.
That wasn’t anywhere near the biggest story of the day, and if you weren’t in the game threads or if you want to relive the afternoon, I have put together this old-fashioned live-blog style chronological recap of all the events of Sunday afternoon. All times Central.
2:00: Vin Scully greets fans for the Dodgers/Giants game and emphasizes the game itself (naturally, never calling attention to himself). He mentions that the Giants are 15-4 against L.A. at AT&T Park over the last two seasons.
2:11: First pitch for Cubs/Reds in Cincinnati.
2:11: First run of the day: the Twins’ Byron Buxton hits Chris Sale’s first pitch for an inside-the park homer at the Cell. His 14-second tour of the bases sets a record:
2:12: Dexter Fowler leads off the Cubs game with a single.
2:17: Giants take 2-0 lead on the Dodgers on RBI hits by Brandon Belt (double) and Buster Posey (single).
2:25: David Ross tips his cap to fans in Cincinnati after Reds put a video tribute to him on the scoreboard at GABP. Miguel Montero also runs out, laughing, and tips his cap too.
2:31: Kyle Hendricks hits Scott Schebler to load the bases in the bottom of the first. Kyle’s command was a bit off early.
2:35: Hendricks issues a bases-loaded walk for the first run of the game for the Reds. Hendricks lost at least one call during that at-bat:
2:35: A two-run single off Hendricks makes it 3-0. He threw 34 pitches in the first inning and lost any chance at a sub-2.00 ERA.
2:48: Giants extend lead to 4-0 over Dodgers on a two-run triple by Denard Span.
2:52: Indians take 2-1 lead over Royals on a two-run homer by Yan Gomes.
2:54: Buster Posey singles to give the Giants a 5-0 lead. A classic Scully call:
Classic Vin: "So it's gray overhead, but for Kenta Maeda, it feels like the sky is falling. He doesn't need Chicken Little to tell him that"— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) October 2, 2016
2:55: Matt Wieters hits a two-run homer to give the Orioles a 3-0 lead over the Yankees.
3:00: Fowler walks. This walk ties the Cubs franchise record, their 650th of the season.
3:05: Anthony Rizzo drives in his 109th run of the year with a groundout. The Cubs trail 3-1.
3:06: Cardinals take a 1-0 lead over the Pirates.
3:19: Jason Heyward walks leading off the fourth inning in Cincinnati. This walk breaks the Cubs franchise record (650, set in 1975). The Cubs wind up the day with nine walks and 656 for the season, the new team record.
3:24: Willson Contreras singles in Heyward; it’s now 3-2 Reds.
3:33: Giants fans salute Scully, hold up orange-and-black placards reading “Thank you Vin!” Willie Mays joins Scully in the broadcast booth:
3:34: Wieters hits another homer — one from each side of the plate -- and the Orioles lead the Yankees 5-1.
3:37: Rizzo throws a runner out at third on a heads-up play.
3:38: Reds take a 4-2 lead over the Cubs.
3:40: Royals tie up the Indians 2-2 on a home run by Cheslor Cuthbert.
3:47: Pirates take a 2-1 lead over the Cardinals.
3:50: Joe Maddon takes most of the regulars out of the game and Tommy La Stella, Munenori Kawasaki, Javier Baez, Matt Szczur and Albert Almora Jr. enter. Kris Bryant finishes the year with 39 homers, Rizzo ends with 32, tying his career high.
3:57: Hendricks is done for the day after five innings. He throws 88 pitches, ends the year with a 2.13 ERA, which leads the major leagues. Jon Lester is second.
#Cubs finishing 1-2 in MLB in ERA (since 1900)— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) October 2, 2016
1906 Brown & Pfiester
1907 Pfiester & Lundgren
1938 Lee & Root
2016 Hendricks & Lester
4:09: Indians take 3-2 lead over Royals with sacrifice fly.
4:13: WGN runs photos and audio of Scully, as Mike Montgomery enters the game to pitch the sixth.
4:16: Terrific catch by Almora on fly ball by Eugenio Suarez.
4:22: Cardinals take the lead over the Pirates on a three-run homer by Matt Carpenter.
4:29: Hanley Ramirez breaks up Aaron Sanchez’ no-hitter with two out in the seventh with a home run. The homer, which was ruled “call stands” on review, tied the game 1-1.
4:30: Pirates tie up Cardinals in the top of the seventh on a two-run homer by John Jaso.
4:36: Szczur ends the seventh in Cincinnati by striking out with the bases loaded. Reds still lead 4-2.
4:40: Orioles defeat Yankees 5-2 and clinch a wild card spot. This is the first game of the day to end, taking two hours, 32 minutes.
4:40: Joe Smith replaces Montgomery to pitch the seventh in Cincinnati.
4:45: Indians defeat Royals. Boston must now win to force the Tigers to play a makeup game vs. the Tribe on Monday.
4:46: Troy Tulowitzki singles in a run for the Jays, who take a 2-1 lead in the eighth.
4:48: Travis Wood pinch-hits for Smith, faces Blake Wood, and strikes out.
4:50: Cardinals take a 5-4 lead over the Pirates in the seventh.
4:52: Willson Contreras homers to center field, his 12th, to cut the Reds’ lead over the Cubs to 4-3.
4:54: Cardinals are in the process of a six-run seventh that gives them a 10-4 lead over the Pirates.
4:56: Wood remains in the game to pitch the eighth.
4:58: Giants take a 7-1 lead over the Dodgers in the eighth inning in San Francisco.
5:00: Braves defeat Tigers 1-0. With this result, the Blue Jays clinch the second wild card. It’s the final game at Turner Field. With the Jays/Red Sox game not yet over, Tigers at this point still might have to play their makeup game if Boston comes back to win.
5:11: Giants complete 7-1 win over Dodgers, clinch wild-card spot and will travel to New York to play the Mets Wednesday. The Cardinals are eliminated from the postseason for the first time since 2010. Here is Vin Scully’s call of the final out, and his sign-off to baseball after 67 years of broadcasting:
Simple, and direct, as Vin always was: “I have said enough for a lifetime, and for the last time, I wish you all a very pleasant good afternoon.”
There will never be anyone like him. He is not only the most important person in baseball broadcasting history, he is one of the most significant figures in all of TV and radio history. I will miss his broadcasts immensely.
5:13: Javier Baez strikes out leading off the ninth. This gives everyone in attendance at GABP free pizza, though many of the Cubs fans in attendance likely won’t take them up on the offer.
5:22: With one strike to go for a Reds win over the Cubs, Szczur hits a two-run double scoring Almora (who had walked) and Kawasaki (who had singled). The Cubs take an improbable 5-4 lead.
5:23: Montero bats for Justin Grimm, who had thrown one pitch to record the last out of the eighth. Montero, again down to a final strike, hits a two-run homer to give the Cubs a 7-4 lead and a four-run ninth, all by the sub Cubs, all after two out.
5:30: Carl Edwards Jr. records a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save, and the Cubs win 7-4, their 103rd win of 2016. Two final notes on this Cubs season:
#Cubs: first time with 15 wins vs single opponent (15 vs Reds this season) since 1978 (15 vs Cardinals)— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) October 2, 2016
#Cubs: 200 wins over last 2 seasons.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) October 2, 2016
First time with 200+ wins over 2-season span since 1909-10 (208)
Also, the Cubs’ three-run margin of victory gave them a run differential of +252 for the season. That edges out the 1935 team (+251) for second-best in team history (best: +323 in 1906). Next-best run differential in the major leagues was 68 runs less (+184, Red Sox). The Cubs were 101 runs better in differential than the next-best N.L. team (Nationals, +151).
5:31: The Blue Jays hang on to defeat the Red Sox. This means the American League wild-card game will be in Toronto Tuesday, and the Tigers go home, not needing to play their makeup game. The Indians get home field in their division series due to winning one more game than the Red Sox.
It was an eventful final day of the 2016 regular season! With the chances for makeup games and tiebreakers in multiple permutations before the afternoon began, we wind up with no baseball at all Monday, and the wild-card games played as scheduled Tuesday (A.L.) and Wednesday (N.L.)
I have, in the past, ended the year’s final recap with a quote from the late Commissioner Bart Giamatti’s “Green Fields of the Mind.” But this season is not ending for the Cubs -- instead, we await a postseason beginning Friday that we hope will end about four weeks from now with the Cubs taking home the ultimate prize, a World Series trophy.