Will the National League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser be staged at PNC Park or Wrigley Field? It all comes down to Sunday.
The Pirates enter their home game against the Reds one game better than the Cubs, who will aim for a three-game sweep of the Brewers at Miller Park. The Cubs can claim the top Wild Card and home field for the Wild Card Game with a win and a Pirates loss by virtue of winning the season series, 11-8. In a new wrinkle instituted by Major League Baseball, all of Sunday's games will start at the same time -- 2:10 p.m. CT in Milwaukee. The game is available to stream free out of market on MLB.TV. Blackout restrictions apply.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
MILWAUKEE -- The Cubs put pressure on the Pirates, winning their 96th game on Saturday night with a 1-0 decision over the Brewers. Whether or not the Cubs will play host to the National League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser or go to Pittsburgh on Wednesday will be decided on the final day of the regular season.
The Pirates began Saturday with a two-game lead over the Cubs in the National League Wild Card standings with two games remaining, but lost to the Reds to reduce their lead to one game. A Pirates' win on Sunday would mean Wednesday's NL Wild Card Game will be at PNC Park. But if the Pirates lose to the Reds, and the Cubs beat the Brewers, the Wild Card Game will be played at Wrigley Field because Chicago won the season series, 11-8.
PITTSBURGH -- Is the Cubs' Kris Bryant the top rookie in the Major Leagues, or is it teammate Kyle Schwarber? How about the best starting pitcher? Cubs fans would definitely vote for Jake Arrieta. Or how about the best everyday player?
Bryant, Schwarber, Arrieta and Anthony Rizzo are the Cubs' nominees in the 2015 Esurance MLB Awards, announced Tuesday.
MILWAUKEE -- Welcome to the new and improved Cubs culture.
Manager Joe Maddon was the primary architect of this development. Maddon will readily admit that "the heavy lifting" of building a base of young talent and solid organizational structure was done before he arrived. But he was the one who instituted a new attitude and a more useful approach.
MILWAUKEE -- If the Cubs are to advance in the postseason, they're going to have to improve on situational hitting. Maybe they got the bad at-bats out of the way on Saturday night.
Chicago stranded 12 batters in a 1-0 win over Milwaukee, which put them one win away from possibly hosting the National League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser at Wrigley Field. The Cubs were 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
MILWAUKEE -- Prior to the Cubs' 161st game on Saturday, players and pitchers were working on their bunting. Manager Joe Maddon wanted to make the most out of their batting practice in preparation for Wednesday's National League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser.
"The thing I love is these are Major League players going to the playoffs, and they're out there paying attention and they're very enthusiastic about it," Maddon said. "That's pretty solid."
MILWAUKEE -- Earlier in the day, Jake Arrieta was simply "dad," buying his two kids warm jackets to handle the early autumn chill. Friday night, the Cubs right-hander switched gears and became the most unhittable second-half pitcher in Major League history.
The Brewers were no match for Arrieta, who threw six shutout innings in the Cubs' 6-1 victory at Miller Park. It was his final start before the National League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser, which will be Wednesday against the Pirates. If the two teams finished tied, the game will be played at Wrigley Field due to Chicago's 11-8 record vs. the Bucs in head-to-head meetings this season.
MILWAUKEE -- Jake Arrieta tuned up for the National League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser, winning his Major League-leading 22nd game, and Anthony Rizzo drove in three runs, including one on his 31st home run, to power the Cubs to a 6-1 victory Friday night over the Brewers. Arrieta finished the regular season with a 0.75 ERA since the All-Star break, the lowest ERA in the second half in Major League history.
"If that did not clinch his [Cy Young] Award, I don't know what would," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "That had to be the clincher. Another quality start, a dominating performance. For me, that should put the icing on the cake right there."
'A different cat,' Arrieta keeps purring in finale
By Mike Bauman
MILWAUKEE -- The Jake Arrieta for NL Cy Young bandwagon continued to roll Friday night, all the way into its final regular-season stop.
It is impossible to diminish the rare and historic quality of Arrieta's work over the last three-plus months. His 0.75 ERA since the All-Star break is the lowest post-All-Star break ERA in Major League history. In his 20 starts since June 21, Arrieta has an ERA of 0.86, not to mention a 16-1 record. His 22 victories are the most by a Cub pitcher since Ferguson Jenkins won 24 in 1971. His 1.77 ERA for the season is the best for a Cubs qualifying pitcher since Grover Cleveland Alexander put up a 1.91 in 1920.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Bryant records "Frozen" Dubsmash duet with girlfriend
By Chris Landers |
Cubs rookie sensation/Lyft driver Kris Bryant and his girlfriend, Jessica Delp, are high school sweethearts. They've been together for years, to the point where they can finish each other's sandwiches -- er, sentences. Sorry, we've just been listening to this Dubsmash the two recorded of "Love Is An Open Door" from "Frozen," and it is surprisingly spot-on:
MILWAUKEE -- Kyle Schwarber made his first start in right field Friday night, part of Cubs manager Joe Maddon's plan to see all of the options available for Wednesday's National League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser against the Pirates.
"I wanted to see what it looked like," Maddon said of Schwarber, who has started in left field and at catcher.
WC at Wrigley? Jackson's HR helps Cubs gain on Bucs
By Carrie Muskat and Mark Sheldon
CINCINNATI -- The Cubs continued their bid to host the National League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser by posting a soggy 5-3 win Thursday afternoon over the Reds, who lost their 12th in a row.
Austin Jackson smacked a three-run home run and Anthony Rizzo added an RBI double to back Jason Hammel, who scattered five hits over five innings for the win in his final regular-season start. Cubs manager Joe Maddon planned on shortening Hammel's outing, but he didn't tell the right-hander until after the fifth.
"I was surprised," Hammel said. "I think the only way I wouldn't make a stink about it was that I felt so good."
There's already been quite a bit of magic involved in the Cubs' path to their first postseason appearance since 2008, so why not hope for a little more? Let's pretend you're about to be transformed into one of the Cubs. Who would it be? The only way to know for sure is to take the quiz below.
Rival players offer inside look at facing the NL Wild Card
How do you beat the Pirates? A catcher on a National League club offers an inside look at how best to face one of the NL Wild Card teams.
"I'm looking for a ball right down the middle. He throws the ball hard. If he throws that breaking ball for a strike, you've got to see it up. For me, I'm looking for a mistake up, because he'll give you one. He has some trouble locating inside pitches, too, so if you see something in, you know most likely it's going to be a ball."
"Liriano is tough. He's a guy that is effectively wild. His ball-to-strike ratio is high, so for me, I'm going to wait him out and wait for a mistake to hit. He'll give you one, but if you swing at him early in the count, he's not going to give you a good pitch to hit. "
"He throws that cutter and the big curveball. The worst thing you can do with him is try to pull the ball. You have to try to hit the ball the other way and see the ball deep. If you try to pull it, you'll swing and miss it or you'll roll over it."
CINCINNATI -- You never know who can be a hero in the postseason. For the Cubs the last two days, Austin Jackson has provided the runs needed, including hitting a three-run homer on Thursday in a 5-3 victory over the Reds.
Jackson had two RBIs in 24 games with Chicago prior to Wednesday; he's driven in eight in the last two games, including a career-high five runs on Wednesday, and then three more Thursday.
CINCINNATI -- The Cubs will have discussions Sunday and Monday about finalizing the postseason roster for next Wednesday's National League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser, and they are trying hard not to overthink the process.
"Your decisions are fairly defined," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Thursday. "There's only so many things you can do with the roster. Because it's one game, you can spend a lot of time thinking through it. There's a tendency to overthink it and think about every permutation. When you get too far in the weeds, you try to remember that."
CINCINNATI -- When Theo Epstein joined the Cubs as president of baseball operations in October 2011, one of the first things he did was create a manual defining the "Cubs' Way" that outlined how they wanted to teach the game in the organization. This year, manager Joe Maddon's emphasis has been on elements that need to be added, such as checking one's ego at the door.
The Cubs' focus on "team first" has helped propel them to a Wild Card spot as much as the physical talent on the roster, and Maddon credited veteran players such as David Ross and Jake Arrieta for enforcing that.
CINCINNATI -- Jon Lester struck out nine, Austin Jackson drove in a career-high five runs, and Starlin Castro had four hits, including a sixth-inning leadoff home run and RBI double, to lift the Cubs to a 10-3 victory Wednesday night and hand the Reds their 11th straight loss.
The win put the Cubs within 2 1/2 games of the Pirates for the top National League Wild Card spot and home-field advantage in the one-game playoff on Oct. 7. The Pirates split a doubleheader against the Cardinals on Wednesday, with St. Louis' second-game win clinching the NL Central.
CINCINNATI -- Wednesday may have been Jon Lester's last regular-season start, but the Cubs left-hander is not ready to finish pitching this year.
Making his 32nd start, Lester struck out nine over eight innings in a 10-3 victory over the Reds and accomplished his personal goal of reaching 200 innings. He also set the franchise record for single-season strikeouts by a left-hander, finishing with 207, which tops Ken Holtzman's 1970 record of 202. It's the fourth time in Lester's career that he's reached 200 K's in a season.
CINCINNATI -- At least now the Cubs know for certain who they'll be playing on Oct. 7 in the National League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser.
With the Cardinals' win Wednesday over the Pirates in the second game of a doubleheader, St. Louis clinched the NL Central Division, which means it'll be Pittsburgh versus Chicago in the Wild Card Game, though the location is yet to be determined.
The Cubs are headed to the postseason, and this will be the first time that many fans across the league will be focusing on their roster. Here's our attempt to give them a head start with the origins of every player representing the North Side of Chicago.
Jon Lester, LHP
Born: Tacoma, Wash.
DOB:1/7/84 HS: Bellarmine (Wash.) High School
Minors: GCL Red Sox (R), Augusta (A), Sarasota (A+), Portland (AA), Pawtucket (AAA)
• Lester was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a blood cancer, in 2006 at the age of 22. Lester overcame the cancer, and threw a no-hitter on May 19, 2008.
• Lester has teamed up with the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation to create NVRQT (standing for "Never Quit"), a charity that hopes to fight against pediatric cancer.
• He has been the Opening Day starter five straight times in his nine-year career, most recently with the Cubs this season. He was also the starter with the Red Sox in their 2007 and '13 World Series championship teams.
CINCINNATI -- Most players try to collect a souvenir from milestones like a first or 100th career home run. On the top shelf of Anthony Rizzo's locker Wednesday was a ball that hit him, marking the 30th time he has been plunked by a pitch this season.
On Tuesday night, Rizzo joined an exclusive 30-30 club -- he now has hit 30 home runs and been hit by a pitch 30 times, only the second player in Major League history to do so, joining Don Baylor (1986). Rizzo actually is a 30-30-30 player -- he has 30 doubles this year as well. Baylor totaled 23 in '86.
CINCINNATI -- The Cubs continued their tuneup for the postseason Tuesday night as Miguel Montero smacked a two-run double to back Dan Haren in a 4-1 rain-delayed victory at Great American Ball Park, handing the Reds their 10th straight loss.
Montero's hit came in a four-run first against rookie Josh Smith. Haren, who has said he will likely retire after this season, gave up three hits over 7 1/3 innings, striking out six. The veteran right-hander was making his first start since Sept. 18, and he was able to do some fine-tuning during side sessions, which helped.
CINCINNATI -- Kris Bryant has played every position in baseball in his life, including catcher, although that was when he was in Little League. He rejected teammate Miguel Montero's offer of his catcher's gear on Tuesday, preferring to stick to third base.
Bryant was all over the place during the Cubs' 1-0 win in 11 innings over the Royals on Monday night, playing first base, center field, right field and third base, and he said it kept him on his toes.
CINCINNATI -- The Cubs know they'll play in the National League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser on Oct. 7. Whether it's at Wrigley Field or on the road has yet to be determined as the Cardinals and Pirates battle for the NL Central title.
"I don't think it matters to us where we play," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Tuesday. "To us, it matters to play in front of your home fan base. That would be the big reason you'd want to play at home, because of your fans. There's the potential of one game, and you want to play in front of your group. To win the game, I don't think it matters where we play."