Monday marked the first time that we saw two tie-breaking Games 163s, and on the same day at that. We had the Milwaukee Brewers traveling to Chicago to take on the Cubs for NL Central supremacy while the Colorado Rockies went out west to Los Angeles to take on the Dodgers for the NL West title. Before the games, there were four potential matchups we could have seen, but they have finally been etched in stone. Here are overviews of both games that took place.
The Milwaukee Brewers’ Magic Continue
Not only were the Cubs and Brewers fighting for first place in the NL Central, but home-field throughout the National League playoffs was at stake. The winner would finish as the number one seed while the loser would fall to fourth and host the NL Wild Card Game. Both came in 95-67 and riding momentum. The Cubs were trying to win a third-straight division title, something they had never done before, while the Brewers were trying to win just their second division title ever. And it was the road team that struck first.
Shortstop Orlando Arcia was on third base with two outs and NL MVP candidate (or favorite) Christian Yelich at the plate. Entering the game, Yelich was hitting .453 in these situations and did not disappoint, hitting a single down-the-middle to bring Arcia home. The 26-year-old has been the talk of baseball because he’s been the best player in the game since the All-Star Break and has picked it up even more in recent weeks. And because of it, was in a position to challenge for the first NL Triple Crown (for position players) since the 1930’s.
In the bottom of the fifth, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo demolished a ball well past 400 feet to help even up the score. And in the bottom of the sixth, the home team had an excellent opportunity to take the lead with two on and two outs and the Cubs’ best hitter of 2018, Javier Baez, up to bat. But Brewers’ reliever Joakim Soria pumped a 94 mph fastball past him to get out of the jam,
Both managers went to the pen after the fifth inning: the Cubs went with them to start the sixth while the Brewers went to it with two outs in the sixth. Milwaukee manager Craig Counsel was aggressive and brought out his big guns from the bullpen to give his team the best chance at ending the game in nine innings. Cory Knebel was brought in and pitched a scoreless seventh inning.
During the top of the eighth, he decided to warm up and get relief ace Josh Hader ready to go in the 8th, even though the score was tied 1-1. But the move paid off, as the Brewers strung together four hits to score two runs in a rally once again started by Arcia, who was batting eighth for a reason. Before Monday, the 24-year-old was hitting a horrid .227/.260/.299, which was among the worst the league. But he seemingly came out of nowhere and had the game of his life, collecting four hits in a single contest for the first time.
Hader would eventually come in and pitch two shutout innings to end the game, and the Brewers proceeded to celebrate on their division rival’s home field, which is always a nice feeling. They will now host the winner of the NL Wild Card Game, which is on Tuesday, between the Cubs and second place in the NL West.
The Dodgers Continue to Reign Supreme Out West
It was only fitting that the division came down to a Game 163. It was a tight race all season long, first between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies until the Dodgers decided to wake up and make it a three-team party. Colorado and Los Angeles were both 91-71 and battling for the National League’s number two seed. The winner would host the Atlanta Braves for Game 1 of the NLDS on Thursday while the loser would have to travel to Chicago for the Wild Card Game on Tuesday.
Not only that, but the Rockies were trying to win their first ever division title while the Dodgers were looking to extend on a franchise-best five-straight NL West titles. It was a matchup of, not only two of the game’s best young pitchers in German Vasquez (Rockies) vs. Walker Buehler (Dodgers) but two of the hottest pitchers in baseball. Since July 31, Buehler had a 1.70 ERA (third among all starters), 0.87 WHIP, 11.0 K/9, and .166 average against, while the Rockies’ youngster had a 2.14 ERA (fifth), 0.91 WHIP, 12 K/9, and a .202 average against.
And the game was initially going as predicted, a pitcher’s duel, with both youngsters shutting the other’s team out, until the mid-innings. Vasquez was rolling, with eight strikeouts through three-and-two-thirds but finally ran into trouble. Cody Bellinger capitalized on a mistake from the 23-year-old and sent it into the Right Field Pavillion to give Los Angeles a 2-0 lead. And in the bottom of the fifth, he allowed a leadoff double to Joc Pederson, who was brought home by a Max Muncy home run on a full count with two outs.
— MLB (@MLB) October 1, 2018
It left a stain on what was looking like a promising day.
And on the other side, Buehler did not have his swing-and-miss stuff like Marquez, but he was generating soft contact and took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Charlie Blackmon ended the bid. And during the bottom of the sixth, Buehler helped his case by driving in his first career run to extend the Dodger lead to 5-0. Not only did he dominate the Rockies from the mound (6.2 innings, one hit, zero runs), but he reached base twice (walk and hit) in three plate appearances.
The Rockies did make it interesting during the top of the 9th, taking Kenley Jansen deep in consecutive at-bats to cut the lead to 5-2. But after a mound visit, Jansen buckled down and struck out two of the next three hitters, and gave the Dodgers a sixth-straight NL West title. And now Colorado has a quick turnaround and because they have to travel to Chicago for a matchup against the Cubs. Finally, we can finally say that playoff baseball is back.