CHICAGO -- It will all come down to Game 162.The Cubs lost, 2-1, to the Cardinals on Saturday, falling into a tie for the National League Central lead after the Brewers later defeated the Tigers, 6-5, in Milwaukee.The Cubs can still clinch their third straight NL Central title with a
CHICAGO -- It will all come down to Game 162.
The Cubs lost, 2-1, to the Cardinals on Saturday, falling into a tie for the National League Central lead after the Brewers later defeated the Tigers, 6-5, in Milwaukee.
The Cubs can still clinch their third straight NL Central title with a win on Sunday plus a Brewers loss to the Tigers.
What's certain is that the Cubs and Brewers are both headed to the playoffs. If they finish with the same regular-season record, they would play a tiebreaker on Monday at Wrigley Field to determine the division winner. The loser of that game would host the NL Wild Card Game on Tuesday.
• Schedule for potential NL tiebreakers announced
Confused? Benjamin Zobrist was, asking the media to explain the situation after the game. When someone tried to go over the different scenarios and then was corrected by another media member, Zobrist shook his head.
"This is why I asked the question," Zobrist said.
"It's baseball. I think we know that we've advanced, but there's a way that we want to advance," said Cole Hamels. "It's kind of keeping our head on right and keeping the focus and knowing these are the moments that we train for."
Cubs manager Joe Maddon planned on going over his lineup options, having dinner delivered, then binge-watching some shows on Netflix on Saturday night.
"I'd just like to continue to have the best record in the league after [Sunday]," Maddon said. "There's nothing to lament with our guys. They've been playing hard for a long period of time. Our route has been a little different than anybody else. We'll come back ready to play [Sunday] and see how it all falls."
Hamels was in a good groove on Saturday. He retired the first nine batters he faced, but the Cardinals took advantage of two mistakes -- a catcher's interference call on Victor Caratini in the fourth and a hit batter in the fifth -- to score their runs.
Hamels was upset about the latter -- hitting Harrison Bader in an 0-2 count to open the fifth. Bader eventually scored the tie-breaking run on Matt Carpenter's single.
"You have a guy 0-2 and there's endless options to get the guy out or let him earn it," Hamels said of the Bader at-bat. "That's the tough play, because I've had it happen a lot in the past couple years on off-speed pitches, just trying to make them too perfect, going for the swing-and-misses. When you hit guys on the front foot when you're aiming for the back, you're over-correcting a little bit. When that happens, especially when there's no outs and the guy gets on, I think that was the toughest today."
After going 4-0 with an 0.69 ERA in August with the Cubs, Hamels finished his six September starts, 0-3. He compiled a 2.36 ERA with the Cubs, giving up two or fewer earned runs in 10 of his 12 starts.
"He's exactly what he looks like from wherever you're sitting," Maddon said of the lefty. "He's professional, he's engaged, he's competitive, he's athletic, he cares. He's a great member of any team. We're very fortunate to have him. He's really helped get us to this particular point in the season."
Miles Mikolas picked up his 18th win, holding the Cubs to five hits over eight innings. Chicago's only run came on an error by second baseman Yairo Munoz in the first.
"You have to look at Miles -- the guy has been lights-out all year. He's been one of the best pitchers," Hamels said. "I think you have to admire his mustache more than anything. He's definitely got me beat."
The only other certainty for the Cubs heading into Game 162 is that they don't have to pack. They could play Monday if there's a tiebreaker, possibly Tuesday in the NL Wild Card Game or Thursday if it's the NL Division Series.
"It's one day at a time," Zobrist said of their approach. "We just think about [Sunday] and try to win [Sunday] and hope that's enough going into this coming week. Regardless, we're thinking about all these games like they're playoff games. We stay in the moment and believe that it's going to work out for us."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Oops: With one out in the first, Zobrist singled and one out later, he scored when Munoz misplayed Javier Baez's fly ball, muffing an over-the-shoulder attempt to catch it. It was the Cardinals' 132nd error, the most in baseball. Mikolas didn't give the Cubs many chances.
"The balls we hit hard, unfortunately, were caught," Zobrist said. "We had a couple opportunities there. You need some balls to drop in or get the line drives to get through to break through on a game like that."
Must be the salsa: In the fourth, Carpenter reached on a catcher's interference call against Caratini and Jose Martinez walked to set up Paul DeJong's RBI single and tie the game at 1. Carpenter delivered an RBI single in the fifth for the go-ahead run, but Baez made a quick tag at second as Carpenter tried to stretch his hit.
This is the first time in the division era that Game 162 has been so critical for the Cubs. In 1998, they needed to play an extra game to decide the Wild Card winner. In 1908, the NL pennant was decided on the last game of the season.
HE SAID IT
"There's a lot of guys with playoff experience. Any time you look at the team, there are a lot of guys in that lineup with a lot of experience. You look at each other, you know you don't have to be the hero, everybody just plays their part. If something doesn't happen, you can pick up your teammate. Nobody's pressing. I think that's the great thing to see. We have the talent and the desire, and we're there to pick each other up and not try to overdo it." -- Hamels, on the Cubs
"It's a blast, absolutely. That was part of my spiel with the boys. Since the time you're in Little League or maybe before that, these are the situations you want to be in. Why would you chose not to enjoy that? I did repeat, 'Don't permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure.' I want them to embrace it and enjoy it. It is fun. Normally, it should bring out the best in our guys." -- Maddon, on dealing with an important Game 162
Mike Montgomery (5-6, 3.99 ERA) will start the Cubs' final regular-season game, making his career-high 19th start. The lefty, who has subbed this year for Yu Darvish, is 5-5 with a 3.68 ERA as a starter. He's made two starts against the Cardinals and hasn't fared well -- they've hit .293 against him. St. Louis will counter with rookie Jack Flaherty (8-8, 3.16 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 2:20 p.m. CT from Wrigley Field. Since it's the last regular-season home game, the Wrigley grounds crew will lead the crowd in the seventh-inning stretch.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.