This certainly isn’t the way the Cubs or their fans would’ve drawn it up, but it sure is making for a fun — and stressful — final couple weeks of the season.
The Cubs weren’t able to fully hold off the Milwaukee Brewers’ late-season charge in the National League Central, but they didn’t fall out of first place, either, thanks to a 10-5 win over the Cardinals Sunday.
So we will have a Game 163 Monday at Wrigley Field to decide the division.
The winner will get Tuesday and Wednesday off and then host Game 1 of the NLDS Thursday and have homefield advantage throughout the NL playoffs.
The loser will host the NL Wild-Card Game Tuesday evening.
Oh, and that’s not all: The Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies will also play in a Game 163 Monday, marking the first time in the history of baseball there will be two tiebreaker games needed to decide divisional races.
Because the second game takes place on the West Coast, first pitch of Cubs-Brewers will be at 12:05 p.m. Chicago time and aired on ESPN. (Considering a team from each game has to travel the next day to play in the Wild-Card Game, MLB opts for matinee times for Game 163.)
Obviously the Cubs want to win Monday to avoid playing a one-game Wild-Card Tuesday that “takes years off your life” and would also represent the 12th straight day with a game. The Cubs’ only off-day this month was Sept. 20 as they’ve endured a hellish stretch compounded by rain delays and postponements.
Even with that tough schedule, the Cubs won 4 of their last 5 games, but the Brewers won their final 7 games in a row, riding the red-hot bat of potential NL MVP Christian Yelich.
The Cubs get to host Game 163 tiebreaker since they went 11-8 against the Brewers in the regular season. But after starting out 8-1 against their division rivals, the Cubs finished 3-7 and dropped the last two series vs. Milwaukee.
As for the pitching matchup for Monday, Jose Quintana is on regular rest to face the Brewers, a team he has pitched very, very well against in his career and this season.
In 6 starts against Milwaukee in 2018, Quintana is 4-1 with a 2.17 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 33 strikeouts in 37.1 innings. He has a 1.60 ERA against the Brewers in 10 career starts.
It’s not for sure yet, but Milwaukee probably counters with their ace, Jhoulys Chacin, in Monday’s game. He last worked Wednesday, so he’s on regular rest for Monday.
Like Quintana, Chacin has also had a fantastic 2018 season against his Monday opponent. In 4 starts against the Cubs this year, the 30-year-old right-hander was 2-2 with a 1.59 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 27 strikeouts in 22.2 innings.
The Cubs should have all of their top relievers available for action, as Steve Cishek (10 pitches) and Carl Edwards Jr. (17 pitches) were not used heavily Sunday.
The Brewers didn’t have to rely on their best relievers Sunday thanks to an 11-0 blowout victory and Josh Hader hasn’t pitched since Friday (though he served up a two-run shot in that outing).
Jon Lester would be in line to start the Cubs’ next game after Monday…whether that’s Tuesday or Thursday.
And because it’s part of the regular season still, the Cubs should have their entire expanded roster available for Monday’s game. And yes, the stats count for both teams.