The Rundown: Cubs Win in Extras and Clinch Playoff Berth, Rockies Surge to NL West Lead, Cards Stumble in Loss to Brewers

Is it okay to breathe yet? After everything that happened last night, the Cubs still remain in control of their own destiny. Certainly the battle for the Central has been one of the toughest the Northsiders have faced in recent memory. To say last night’s win was big is a gargantuan understatement, considering the way the game played out.

So the magic number is four with four games left. Win them all and there is nothing Milwaukee can do to take the division. Easy, right? We can only hope. The Brewers look unstoppable right now and will end their season with three games at home against Detroit. The Cubs will be facing a Cardinals team that is fighting with their last breath to secure the second Wild Card spot.

The Rockies didn’t do the Cardinals any favors by thrashing a soulless Phillies team 14-0 after St. Louis literally stumbled to a loss at home against the Brewers. Maybe the Tigers have the fortitude to relish the role of spoiler. Don’t count on it.

Fans of both the Cubs and the Brewers are really getting there money’s worth this week, am I right? It comes down to three games, boxing’s equivalent of a split decision, more or less.

  • Cubs: Ain’t gonna be no rematch, ain’t gonna be no rematch.
  • Brewers: Don’t want one.

Well, there is that potential NLDS match looming on the horizon. Talk about your fall classics.

I’m not going to recap the game, you can read the review here at Cubs Insider. But after last night’s games, here is what we know for sure:

  • The Cubs will be playing postseason baseball for the fourth consecutive season, a franchise record. The earliest that a Central Division winner can be crowned is Saturday.
  • The Brewers are also in the playoffs. One of the two Central leaders will host the Wild Card game and 93 wins will guarantee the division winner will finish with at least a tie for the best record in the National League. Chicago is 92-66, Milwaukee is 92-67. A single loss by Atlanta would clinch at least a tie for best record also.
  • The Rockies are rolling right now with a seven-game winning streak and their magic number to eliminate the Cardinals and make the playoffs is two. Colorado also leads the NL West by a half-game over the Dodgers. Their magic number for the division crown is four.
  • The Braves have already clinched the NL East and will likely face the winner of the NL West in the NLDS. That could become official as early as tomorrow.
  • A six-team tie is no longer a possibility, though a three-team tie that could decide the NL West and the second wild card is a real possibility.

Your up-to-the-minute NL standings:

  1. Cubs 92-66 .582
  2. Brewers 92-67 .579
  3. Braves  89-69 .563
  4. Rockies 88-70 .557
  5. Dodgers 88-71 .553
  6. Cardinals 87-72 .547

Cubs News & Notes

Jessie Rogers of ESPN tweeted that the Cubs had won the game 6-4 just as Francisco Cervelli was tying the game with a two-run double in the top of the 9th. Oops.

Joe Maddon finally read Melisa Reidy’s blog, but he said his stance regarding Addison Russell still hasn’t changed. “This is in the hands of MLB and the players union, period,” Maddon said. “That was my initial stance, and that is my stance [after reading]. It’s horrible to think what [Reidy] has gone through, absolutely. But I don’t know enough about the other side. I’m waiting for the full report to come out, and then we could all draw conclusions at that point.”

In a great article by Peter Gammons of The Athletic, Theo Epstein has bemoaned the way pitchers are used today and believes that baseball should do something to limit bullpenning. You’ll need a subscription to read it and if you do not have one yet, what are you waiting for?

Kris Bryant, who suffered a left-wrist bruise after being hit with a pitch Tuesday, was not in Wednesday night’s starting lineup, but Maddon said Bryant was OK. His status remains day-to-day.

Yesterday’s win was the team’s 10th this year against Pittsburgh, ensuring a win for the Cubs in the 19-game season matchup. Jon Lester (17-6) will take the bump tonight against the Pirates hottest pitcher, Trevor Williams (14-9), in the season finale. The last time the Cubs faced Williams they turned seven double plays to win 1-0 behind Cole Hamels.

How About That!

Jacob deGrom had another quality start, and got the win, in his final start of the season. The Mets’ ace is now the frontrunner to win the NL Cy Young Award and is getting some support for league MVP as well.

Chris Sale, David Price, Matt Barnes, and Craig Kimbrel are all fighting nagging injuries and struggling a little bit right now, not a good omen as the Red Sox enter the 2018 playoffs with the best record in baseball. Sale has now lost velocity in each of his starts since returning from the disabled list. He averaged 96 mph in his first game back, then 95 mph, then 93 mph. Yesterday he topped out at 90 mph.

In the first game of Wednesday’s meaningless Orioles-Red Sox doubleheader, Boston outfielder and AL MVP candidate Mookie Betts stole his 30th base of the season, giving him just the second 30-30 season in team history.

A.J. Pollock hit a three-run homer and the Diamondbacks dropped Los Angeles to second place in the NL West with a 7-2 win over the Dodgers on Wednesday night.

The Cardinals had had enough of Yelich destroying them, so they walked the MVP candidate five times in five plate appearances last night. The outfielder scored twice, including the winning run.

Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson suffered a partially torn ligament in his hand and will miss the remainder of the regular season. He will be re-evaluated next week prior to the start of the postseason.

Bryce Harper sounds like a guy who is genuinely saying goodbye to the fans in Washington DC, and those fans appear to have accepted that as fact.

It wasn’t much fun watching the Brewers celebrate while I listened to the Cubs give up a game-tying double in the 9th, but it was enjoyable to see Bob Uecker taking part in the team’s post-game celebration.

Wednesday’s Three Stars

  1. Rafael Devers – The Boston star finished 4-for-5 with two home runs and six RBI as the Red Sox trounced the Orioles 19-3 in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader. He was 1-for-3 with a double in the nightcap.
  2. Jacob deGrom – The 30-year-old punched out Ozzie Albies with a 92-mph slider for his 1,000th career strikeout to close out his final regular-season start, and he is the fastest Mets pitcher to get to 1,000 strikeouts. The Mets ace struck out a total of 10 and allowed just two singles against the NL East champions. He retired the final 20 hitters he faced.
  3. German Marquez – All Marquez did was strike out nine Phillies batters in the first three innings, including the first eight of the game, on his way to his 14th victory. The Rockies hurler finished with 11 Ks and would be at the top of this list if only the Phillies had showed up to play any semblance of baseball.

On Deck

Extra Innings

Eno Sarris met former Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis at his brewery to talk about beer and baseball.

They Said It

  • “We don’t press. We don’t put pressure on ourselves. We leave that up to you guys and the fans. We have the upmost confidence in each and every one of us. We’re not taking this for granted. We’re super-pumped that we’re in the playoffs. But our job’s not done. We want to take this division and move forward with the best record in the NL.” – Albert Almora Jr.
  • “For the group that really wants to lament, that’s a bad method right there, man. We won. We won a tough game against a tough opponent right now. Our division is the strongest in baseball and we came out on top and qualified for the playoffs once again. And yes, we want to win the division.” – Joe Maddon
  • “Eight years sounds kinda short.” – Bryce Harper

Thursday Walk Up Song

Winning by Santana. Feels so good. I’ll take four more, please and thank you.

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