The Cubs beat the Brewers, 1-0, on Saturday night to put pressure on the Pirates, who are trying to secure home field advantage in the NL Wild Card Game. Pittsburgh lost Saturday night to the Reds, and now has a one-game lead in the Wild Card standings. The Pirates must win Sunday to play Wednesday’s WC game at PNC Park. If the Pirates lose and the Cubs win, the two teams will have identical records, and the game will be at Wrigley Field because Chicago won the in-season series, 11-8.
Sunday’s game will start at 2:10 p.m. CT at Miller Park.
“That’s why you keep playing,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “You stay focused on the day and you take care of your own business and if you do that, you get to tomorrow with an opportunity to do something really cool. We’ve been playing it straight up, we’ve been using a lot of different guys. Everybody’s fresh. We’ve been playing it straight up. Tomorrow we’ll do it again.”
Dan Haren gets the start on Sunday at Miller Park against the Brewers’ Jorge Lopez.
— Carrie Muskat
Prior to the Cubs’ 161st game on Saturday, players and pitchers were working on their bunting at Miller Park. Manager Joe Maddon wanted to make the most out of their batting practice time in preparation for Wednesday’s National League Wild Card Game.
“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.”
One never knows if a little thing like a well-executed bunt can be the difference in a postseason game.
“We’ve worked on it all year,” Maddon said. “But if you do it like that [prior to the playoffs], what does it tell the players? That it’s really important.”
This final week of regular season games has been a little like instructional league, Maddon said.
“You alter your lineups, you try to keep guys fresh,” he said. “In instructional league, you give guys the opportunity to play based on things you talked about or taught that morning. It feels like an instructional league moment, and that was my favorite time of year.”
The Cubs will face the Pirates on Wednesday, although the site is still to be determined.
— Carrie Muskat
The Cubs need to win to keep pace with the Pirates in the battle for home field advantage in the Wild Card game. Pittsburgh has a two-game lead with two games to play, and if the Cubs lose, the Pirates are in. Kyle Hendricks gets the start Saturday. Here’s the lineup:
If the Cubs and Pirates finish in a tie, the Cubs would host the Wild Card game on Wednesday at Wrigley Field; the tiebreaker is head to head season series (Chicago won, 11-8).
This will be Hendricks last regular season start. The right-hander is coming off a solid outing against the Royals in which he threw six shutout innings.
The Cubs pitchers have set a National League record for most strikeouts in a single season with 1,414. The old mark was 1,404, set in by the 2003 Cubs.
The Cubs beat the Brewers, 6-1, on Friday, and know that they will face the Pirates in Wednesday’s Wild Card Game, but the site has yet to be determined. Pittsburgh defeated Cincinnati in 12 innings Friday night, and holds a two-game lead in the Wild Card standings with two games remaining.
If the two teams finish with identical records, the Cubs hold the tiebreaker because they won the season series, 11-8, and would host the playoff game at Wrigley Field.
Jake Arrieta goes for his 22nd win Friday night when the Cubs open their final regular season series at Miller Park against the Brewers. Arrieta has thrown 19 consecutive quality starts, and he’s 15-1 with a 0.89 ERA in that stretch. He has a 0.80 ERA since the All-Star break, which would be the lowest in Major League history. Manager Joe Maddon said not to expect Arrieta throwing 100 plus pitches in his final regular season start. The right-hander will be on the mound Wednesday when the Cubs play the Pirates in the NL Wild Card game. The site for that game is still to be determined. A Pirates’ win on Friday and Cubs’ loss would clinch home field advantage for the Bucs.
Here’s the lineup:
La Stella 3B
The Cubs will have discussions Sunday and Monday about finalizing the postseason roster for next Wednesday’s National League Wild Card game and are trying hard not to over-think the process.
“Your decisions are fairly defined,” Cubs GM 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 over think it and think about every permutation. When you get too far in the weeds, you try to remember that.”
Hoyer said he recalled adding Curtis Leskanic to the Red Sox roster in 2004 even though the reliever had not been used in high leverage situations. Yet, there was Leskanic on the mound in an extra inning game with the score tied, and the Red Sox faced elimination if they lost.
“That’s the nature of these rosters — you always have to assume anyone you put on the roster will be put in a huge spot,” Hoyer said. “It feels the game always finds that person.”
The Cubs have had preliminary discussions regarding the roster, but the final configuration does not have to be submitted until the day of the game.
“We’re just doing one thing at a time, man,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Thursday. “That’s how I’m looking at it.”
Jake Arrieta will start the Wild Card game, and the Cubs will likely have one more starting pitcher on the roster. Then, it will come down to how many position players compared to how many relievers. The Cubs also know their opponents well, having played their playoff-bound Central Division foes 19 times each.
“You take every series real seriously in the postseason and you try not to leave any stone unturned,” Hoyer said. “When it’s one game, it consolidates all of that decision making into nine innings.”
— Carrie Muskat
Jason Hammel gets the start Thursday as the Cubs close their series against the Reds in Cincinnati. Here’s the lineup:
*This will be Schwarber’s first start at catcher since Aug. 31, and it’s fitting that he does it in Cincinnati. He grew up in MIddletown, Ohio, and was a Johnny Bench fan.
*The Cubs finished September with 19 wins, and have won 19 or more games in consecutive months for the first time since 1977 (21 wins in May, 19 in June). The 19-9 September record this year was the best in the Majors.
*The Cubs have won 93 games, a 20-win improvement from last year. That’s the best in all of baseball this year, and best by a Cubs team since a 21-win increase from ’02 to ’03.
*Looking ahead to the Cubs’ final regular season series against the Brewers in Milwaukee:
Friday: Jake Arrieta (21-6, 1.92) vs. Ariel Pena (2-0, 3.91)
Saturday: Kyle Hendricks (7-7, 4.09) vs. Tyler Wagner (0-1, 11.74)
Sunday: Dan Haren (10-9, 3.67) vs. Jorge Lopez (1-0, 5.40)
Jon Lester gets the start Wednesday night for the Cubs as they face the Reds in Cincinnati. Here’s the lineup:
This will be the second time this season Kyle Schwarber has led off for the Cubs. He also did so on Aug. 26 in San Francisco, and went 2-for-4 with a stolen base.
Dan Haren is slated to start Tuesday night for the Cubs in the first of three against the Reds in Cincinnati. Here’s the lineup:
La Stella 2B
The Reds have had more than 24 hours of rain delays this season, and there is rain in the forecast. If you’re coming to Great American Ball Park, all I can tell you is they will try to play.
The Cubs have held their opponents scoreless for 21 consecutive innings in winning the last two games. They have 20 shutouts this season, the most since 1969. The last time the Cubs posted three straight shutouts was July 1992.
The Cubs are 40-19 since late July.
Haren is competing for a spot in the Cubs postseason rotation. The right-hander was skipped the last time through the rotation because of an off-day. He allowed three runs (one earned) over 4 1/3 innings in his most recent start, a no-decision against the Cardinals.
Kyle Hendricks gets the start and Anthony Rizzo gets a day off on Monday when the Cubs play host to the Royals in a make-up Interleague game at Wrigley Field. Here’s the lineup:
La Stella 3B