To paraphrase the words of the late Jack Buck: “And we will see you tomorrow afternoon.”
The Cubs defeated the Cardinals 10-5 on a wet, gloomy Sunday at Wrigley Field, and the Brewers crushed the Tigers 11-0, so the Cubs and Brewers, even at 95 wins each, will meet for the N.L. Central title Monday at 12:05 p.m. CT at Wrigley. The winner gets two days off, which right now probably sounds like a great prize to the Cubs. The loser hosts the N.L. wild-card game Tuesday evening.
There will also be a tiebreaker game Monday for the N.L. West title between the Rockies and Dodgers at Dodger Stadium at 3:05 p.m. CT. The Cubs had to win and just one of three other teams (Giants, Nationals, Tigers) had to win to prevent the Cubs from playing in a noon game Monday. Not only did all three of those teams lose, but all of them got shut out and all allowed at least 11 runs Sunday.
That was today, though, and the Monday game will surely be different.
First, though, let’s unpack the Cubs’ Game 162 victory.
It did not start out well. Mike Montgomery got hit hard in the first inning and an uncharacteristic error by Jason Heyward allowed a second run to score in that inning, making it 2-0 Cardinals. Oh, well, I thought, the Cubs are just going to have to come from behind again.
That didn’t start out well either. Daniel Murphy led off with a walk, and one out later Javier Baez forced him and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Anthony Rizzo then singled to right, and oh Javy what were you thinking? [VIDEO]
Baez ran right through Brian Butterfield’s stop sign and was thrown out easily. Sure, Joe Maddon likes aggressive baserunning and Javy usually sizes these things up pretty well... but not that time. This did not set a good tone early.
The Cubs went down 1-2-3 in the second and when Mike Montgomery allowed a one-out double in the third, that’s when Joe began an enormous parade of miscellaneous relief pitchers. And... for the most part, they did pretty well. Allen Webster retired two of the three hitters he faced to finish the third, and then Cubs hitters got to work, all after the first two hitters were retired in the bottom of the third.
Murphy doubled and that brought up Ben Zobrist [VIDEO].
Granted, Jose Martinez is pretty much a statue in right field, but Zobrist moves pretty well for a 37-year-old, and wound up with an RBI triple. A wild pitch scored him to tie the game, and then Baez walked. Rizzo was next [VIDEO].
That time, Javy scored easily on the double to the gap, Rizzo’s 100th RBI of the season, making him the first lefthanded hitter in Cubs franchise history to have four 100-RBI seasons. And you can tell at the end of that video, when Rizzo got to second base, how pumped he was.
Kris Bryant was given a Manfred and Jason Heyward followed [VIDEO].
That made it 4-2, an impressive two-out rally.
Alec Mills entered to pitch and threw two really good scoreless innings, allowing just one walk.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Cubs put another four-spot on the board, the highlights being a two-run double by Bryant and this line-drive shot by Willson Contreras [VIDEO] with Bryant on second.
The ball bounced back onto the field off the ribbon board above the left-field basket for a two-run homer. That was Willson’s first home run since August 1, a span of 43 games and 155 plate appearances, and put him in double figures for the season at 10. If Contreras can start finding his power again, that bodes very well for him in the postseason.
It’s now 8-2 and plans are furiously being made for a tiebreaker game Monday. Mills got a bit sloppy in the sixth, putting two runners on and Joe called on Carl Edwards Jr. CJ threw a wild pitch and allowed a two-run single before a double play and a groundout ended the inning. I get what Joe is trying to do with CJ, he’s an important part of the bullpen, but his velocity still seems down and his command still isn’t great.
The Cubs put two more on the board in the sixth, also after two were out. Baez doubled and Rizzo walked, then an error by Cardinals pitcher Dakota Hudson allowed one run to score. A single by Albert Almora Jr. plated the 10th Cubs run of the afternoon. That double by Baez was a milestone for him:
Javier Báez with his 40th double.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) September 30, 2018
First player in #Cubs history with 40+ doubles, 30+ HR & 20+ stolen bases in a season.
Then it was up to a bunch more Cubs relievers to finish the day. Brandon Kintzler was charged with one run in the seventh, and Steve Cishek had to finish up that frame. Cishek’s probably the only reliever Joe really didn’t want to use in this game, but he had to nail down that inning before it got worse. Cishek threw only 10 pitches in this one after 11 on Saturday... here’s hoping he’s not needed in Monday’s game, because he appeared in five of the seven games on the homestand and three of the last four.
Finally, Jaime Garcia and Jorge De La Rosa finished up without incident to give the Cubs their 95th win of the year and the tie with Milwaukee. Scoreboard-watching went out the window fairly early with the Brewers blowing out the Tigers, and so everyone began making plans for an early Monday afternoon date at the ballpark.
The Cubs released the following information about ticket sales for Monday:
Tickets for the tiebreaker game go on sale Sunday, September 30, at 7:30 p.m. CT, and will be available online at www.cubs.com/singlegametickets.
The Cubs will offer an in-person purchase opportunity beginning at 8 a.m. CT tomorrow, October 1, at the Wrigley Field Ticket Office located on Clark Street, just north of the Marquee. Fans also can purchase tickets for the game by telephone beginning at 8:30 a.m. CT tomorrow, October 1, by calling 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827). Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Season-ticket holders had to pay for their tickets by 11:59 p.m. CT Saturday or have them released to the general public. Most of the STH I know are coming to Monday’s game, except for a handful with commitments they couldn’t break. I would expect tickets to sell out quickly online Sunday night, with only a small number available in person Monday morning.
MLB has, since 2015, been scheduling all last-day games to begin within a few minutes of 2 p.m. CT. Thus, the Wrigley scoreboard has never been quite this full (this photo taken just before the first completed game of the day, Rangers/Mariners):
And then, about 90 minutes later, with the Cubs/Cardinals game the only one still going:
Monday’s game will feature Jose Quintana going for the Cubs. The Brewers have not yet announced a starting pitcher but it’s widely expected that Jhoulys Chacin will be their starter. Game time is 12:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage is via ESPN — no more local TV broadcasts this year. The Dodgers/Rockies N.L. West tiebreaker will follow, also via ESPN.
Guess what? It might rain again Monday, though that forecast has the heavier rain holding off till later in the day and in the evening, so the noon start might actually work out for the Cubs.
A reminder that Game 163 is considered a regular-season game for standing and statistical purposes. All stats count as part of the regular season, and the winner of this game will finish with 96 regular-season wins, the loser with 68 regular-season losses. It also means that the expanded September rosters are in use, so the Cubs will have 37 active players available.
More on all this Monday morning. In the meantime... #LetsGo #EverybodyIn