Chicago Cubs, Brewers to meet Monday with division title on the line
Anthony Rizzo stood on second base in the third inning Sunday at Wrigley Field after hitting a run-scoring double.
He waved both arms to exhort the crowd of 39,275 to keep making the noise they started making earlier as the Chicago Cubs were rallying from a 2-0 deficit to the St. Louis Cardinals.
It was as if Rizzo was willing the Cubs to victory, something they eventually achieved by a score of 10-5 on this most extraordinary day of baseball in the National League.
"I think as a unit we were," Rizzo said of willing themselves to victory. "We know what's at stake. Obviously we needed to win today by all means, and tomorrow the same thing. We've got to come in. We've got to be ready to play, and I think we will be. The atmosphere here should be nothing short of electric.
Here is what it all means:
Both the Cubs and the Milwaukee Brewers won Sunday to improve their records to 95-67 after 162 games. The two teams are tied for first place in the NL Central, and they'll play Game 163 of the season Monday at 12:05 at Wrigley Field.
The winner wins the Central and homefield advantage throughout the NL playoffs, while the loser gains the top wild-card spot and must play the do-or-die playoff game at home Tuesday.
The Brewers routed the Detroit Tigers 11-0 at Miller Park.
While all that was going on, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies were winning by big scores to wind up tied for first place in the NL West. They'll face off Monday at 3:09 p.m. at Dodger Stadium, with the winner capturing the West and the loser getting on a plane to play the wild-card game on the road.
The Cubs were a little late to Sunday's party. While the Brewers, Dodgers and Rockies were easily winning their games in blowouts, the Cubs and starting pitcher Mike Montgomery fell behind the Cardinals 2-0 in the first inning.
Although the Cubs eventually ran out to leads of 8-2 and 10-4, it was not a comfortable day for manager Joe Maddon.
"I didn't feel like it was a blowout here," Maddon said. "I was jealous."
Maddon didn't fool around. When the Cardinals' Paul DeJong doubled with one out in the second, Maddon yanked Montgomery for little-known reliever Allen Webster, whose contract was selected from Class AAA Iowa on Sept. 19. Before the Cubs picked him up, he had not appeared in a big-league game since 2015 with the Diamondbacks.
Webster hit a batter, but he worked out of the inning without giving up a run and wound up with the win. Reliever Alec Mills, who was up and down with the Cubs this year, held the fort for the most part over 2-plus innings.
"I was pumped up even to get the call to be able to go in at that time," Webster said. "I went out there and gave it the best I had. It worked out good for me and the team. We were able to a good rally going after that inning."
The Cubs scored 4 runs in the bottom of the inning and 4 more in the fifth. They did so in the third after two outs, on a double by Daniel Murphy, a triple by Ben Zobrist, a walk to Javier Baez and Rizzo's triple. Jason Heyward later singled in a run.
Maddon wound up using eight relief pitchers in a game that took 3 hours and 44 minutes to play.
"That was 15 innings, wasn't it?" he said. "It felt like extra innings, having to deal with so many different pitching changes. They came out, the Cardinals played it right, so we had to do all the different manipulations we did. But it worked. And we get to play 163."
Rizzo, who was on base five times with 2 doubles, 2 singles and a walk, spoke for the players.
"We put ourselves in a position to come down to one game to win the division and get a couple days off," he said. "If we win it, we'll be ecstatic. If we lose, we've played more games in row before, so we'll be ready to play."