PITTSBURGH -- The Cubs' first step toward their ultimate goal of ending a 107-year World Series championship drought was contentious, yet also decisive.
Jake Arrieta weaved his routine spell, and rookie Kyle Schwarber drove in the first three runs -- two on a majestic 450-foot homer out of PNC Park -- and Chicago blanked Pittsburgh, 4-0, in Wednesday night's National League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser to advance to face the Cardinals in the NL Division Series, which begins on Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET on TBS.
They've faced each other 2,363 times lo these many years. They made the Brock trade. They played the "Sandberg Game." They provided the McGwire and Sosa chase. They've stoked about as much red vs. blue passion as an Election Day.
PITTSBURGH -- All the Cubs wanted was to keep Jake Arrieta in the game. Emotions ran high and tempers flared in the seventh inning Wednesday night after their ace was hit by a pitch from Pirates reliever Tony Watson.
In the Cubs' 4-0 win over the Bucs in the National League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser, Watson's first pitch to Arrieta sailed inside and hit the Chicago pitcher near the hip. Arrieta exchanged words with Watson as he headed up the first-base line, and benches cleared shortly after home-plate umpire Jeff Nelson issued a warning.
PITTSBURGH -- As champagne dripped from his nose and matted down his close-cropped hair, Cubs rookie Kyle Schwarber was not only smiling, but he began to smirk. As the party raged on in front of him, Schwarber could still see the baseball that disappeared behind the right-field stands at PNC Park.
"I watched it," Schwarber admitted after Chicago's 4-0 triumph over the Pirates on Wednesday night, a victory that sealed a date with the rival Cardinals in the National League Division Series, which will begin with the series opener on Friday, airing at 5:30 p.m. CT on TBS.
You have to start somewhere, and if this turns out to be The Year, history will record that the beginning of the end came at PNC Park, with Jake Arrieta dominating the Pirates -- as he has so many opponents during a season in which he's made manager Joe Maddon think about Bob Gibson, circa 1968 -- in Wednesday night's 4-0 win in the National League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser to advance to meet the Cardinals in the NL Division Series, which begins Friday at Busch Stadium (5:30 p.m. CT on TBS).
PITTSBURGH -- Cubs lefty Jon Lester considers Cardinals starter John Lackey one of his best friends in baseball. They pitched in the same rotation with the Red Sox, won a World Series together and have remained close since heading to separate teams.
Lester wanted to make one thing crystal clear on Wednesday, following Chicago's 4-0 victory over the Pirates in the National League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser to advance to meet the Cardinals in the NL Division Series, which begins Friday at Busch Stadium (5:30 p.m. CT on TBS).
PITTSBURGH -- Jon Lester stood off to the side, discussing the daunting road ahead for the Cubs as his teammates celebrated all around him Wednesday night. With a decade in the Majors and a pair of World Series rings to his credit, the lefty is a grizzled veteran compared to Chicago's kids.
In the wake of their 4-0 Wild Card win over the Pirates, the Cubs now have a series that's been more than a century in the making. Next up are the 100-win Cardinals in the National League Division Series (Game 1 Friday at 5:30 p.m. CT on TBS), a team that has never faced the Cubs on the postseason stage despite more than 2,000 games between the teams in their long, storied history.
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.
Jake Arrieta continued his historically dominant run on Wednesday night, spinning a shutout in the Cubs' winner-take-all game against the Pirates.
The National League Cy Young Award candidate was in top form in the NL Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser, not just stifling Bucs hitters in the Cubs' 4-0 victory, but making more history in the process. As if Arrieta's performance on the mound wasn't enough, he also contributed both at the plate and on the basepaths. With the win, the Cubs advanced to face the Cardinals in the NL Division Series, which begins on Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET on TBS.
Though Cubs ace Jake Arrieta once again stole the show with Wednesday night's 4-0 shutout of the Pirates, he had more than enough offensive -- and defensive -- help behind him.
While one Cubs rookie crushed his longest home run of the year -- and one of the longest by the Cubs period, per Statcast™ -- as Chicago prevailed in the National League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser, a fellow first-year player stepped up defensively to thwart a Pirates rally, while atoning for an earlier defensive miscue.
PITTSBURGH -- After being pushed around by Jake Arrieta for five innings en route to a 4-0 loss on Wednesday night, the Pirates finally put his back up against the wall in the sixth.
Trailing by four runs, the Bucs loaded the bases with one out. The rally woke up a quiet PNC Park crowd in the National League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser, but Arrieta made the final push, getting Starling Marte to ground into an inning-ending double play.
The Cubs rolled into Pittsburgh for their first postseason game since 2008 and blanked the Pirates, 4-0, on Wednesday night to advance to the National League Division Series against the rival Cardinals.
Jake Arrieta was brilliant in a four-hit shutout and the Cubs got home runs from Kyle Schwarber and Dexter Fowler to win the NL Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser and secure the organization's first postseason victory since 2003. Here's a look at some of the top moments, courtesy of @MLBGIFs.
Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Schwarber hits his biggest HR in biggest game
By Michael Clair |
Kyle Schwarber is a man who epitomizes big. Looking at his large, strapping neck, you know it must be a nightmare to purchase dress shirts that don't cut into his trachea. And his large biceps mean he's probably constantly tearing through his sleeves.
But while his sartorial choices are probably limited, it turns out his muscular build helps him on the field. In the top of the first of the NL Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser, the Cubs' catcher/right fielder (he played right on Wednesday night) inside-outted a single into left field to score Dexter Fowler, breaking the deadlock.
When Kyle Schwarber put the Cubs up, 1-0, with an RBI single during the NL Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser, he rubbed his hands on his helmet in the direction of the dugout, where Jonathan Herrera was wearing this.
Q. Given what happened with Arrieta getting hit, do you think that was intentional, and have you lost any respect for the Pirates?
JOE MADDON: I just talked to them. I think you can draw your own conclusions from what you saw. That said, I really don't want to denigrate this entire moment for our organization and our team.
I cannot be more proud of a group of guys than I was of our players tonight. Jake was spectacular, obviously. But how about the defense and some of the plays we made? Some big hits by Dexter and Schwarber and the entire group.
I have nothing but respect for the Pirate organization, always have. I was a Roberto Clemente fan growing up.
So regarding anything that you thought may have been inappropriate tonight, you guys be the judge of that, and ladies.
Q. There had been a lot of discussion even by Cole himself, by Gerrit Cole, about how he can get amped up. Was that something, especially seeing him so much this year, that you thought you could take advantage of in this situation?
Q. What was the plan today against Cole? You guys wanted to lay off the inside stuff and try to attack them the other way?
KYLE SCHWARBER: Yeah. We executed the game plan to a tee today. Dex got on base pretty much every time except once. Just trying to hit the ball hard and layoff inside. Don't chase. Try to make solid contact.
Q. You had a little bit of struggle in September. What changed for you tonight to have the success that you did?
PITTSBURGH -- All Starlin Castro wanted was a chance to win a spot in the starting lineup again, and Joe Maddon gave him that. All Jason Hammel needed was to pitch deeper in games, and Maddon explained his thinking. All Cubs fans craved was a winner, and Maddon guided the team to the postseason for the first time since 2008.
And all Travis Wood wanted was a penguin, and Maddon delivered that, too.
PITTSBURGH -- When Cubs manager Joe Maddon first saw Addison Russell, he was impressed by the infielder's solid fundamentals. Karl Jernigan takes pride in that. He recalls all the grounders he hit to the young shortstop, starting when Russell was 9 years old.
Jernigan was drafted three times and finally signed with the Giants in 2001. But he batted .224 in two Minor League seasons and never got above Class A. He returned to Florida and decided to coach, and a friend recruited Jernigan to help with a team of 9-year-old boys.
PITTSBURGH -- Cubs rookie Addison Russell proudly wore a blue T-shirt with "We Are Good" in gold lettering on the front. That's a message catcher Miguel Montero started this season. It's a message Cubs veterans have emphasized to the youngsters on the roster.
"Every single time we put one of these shirts on, it means something," Russell said Tuesday. "People didn't think we'd be in this situation so early. ... We do believe that we are good."
It's no secret that Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta is in the midst of one of the most dominant pitching stretches of all-time as he prepares to take the mound against the Pirates on Wednesday.
Before Arrieta takes the mound for his first career postseason start in the NL Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser at 7 p.m. CT on TBS, however, let's take one more look at some of his historic regular-season numbers. The following is a list of 10 of the most impressive facts and figures surrounding Arrieta's record-setting campaign.
By now, you've probably watched "Back to the Future II" and know the scene in the 1989 movie where Marty McFly realizes the Cubs won the 2015 World Series. Could it happen this year? Here are five reasons why the Cubs, who will face the Pirates in Pittsburgh on Wednesday in the National League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser, live on TBS at 7 p.m. CT, could win the World Series.
• Jake Arrieta is probably fit enough to pitch every game, but that's not likely. Still, his rotation mates are peaking at the right time. If Arrieta can continue his Bob Gibson-like second-half success and Jon Lester is able to deliver in the playoffs, the Cubs could end the 100-plus year drought. Lester has a career 6-4 record and 2.57 ERA in the postseason, including a 3-0 record and 0.43 ERA in the World Series. Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks both have pitched well in September.
Jake Arrieta completed his historic second half with another dominant month, earning him the National League Pitcher of the Month honors for September/October.
Arrieta, who also won in August, allowed just two earned runs in 46 innings -- a 0.39 ERA -- and held opposing batters to a slash line of .141/.168/.173 with a .341 OPS and won five of his six starts. He becomes the first pitcher to win the award in consecutive months since Clayton Kershaw did in 2014 on his way to winning the Cy Young Award.