It's been a wild ride and it'll be a wild end to the 2018 regular season, with two division titles up for grabs on Sunday.The Brewers, behind the heroics of National League Most Valuable Player candidate and Triple Crown contender Christian Yelich, hung on to beat the Tigers, 6-5, on
It's been a wild ride and it'll be a wild end to the 2018 regular season, with two division titles up for grabs on Sunday.
The Brewers, behind the heroics of National League Most Valuable Player candidate and Triple Crown contender Christian Yelich, hung on to beat the Tigers, 6-5, on Saturday at Miller Park. Coupled with the Cubs' 2-1 loss to the Cardinals earlier in the day, the NL Central is tied heading into the final day of the regular season. Meanwhile, the NL West is also tied with one game to play, as the Dodgers beat the Giants, 10-6, in San Francisco, while the Rockies lost to the Nationals,12-2, at Coors Field.
"You play all those games and it still comes down to 162," said Yelich. "I was saying earlier, how those clichés -- 'one game at a time, all these games count, Opening Day is the same as a day in June' -- and look where we're at. Dead even at 161 with 162 to play. But it's a lot of fun, I think everybody is really excited. I think we're expecting a lot of energy."
"It's a pretty incredible day for baseball, to have two divisions, 161 games and two ties and four games being played that are going to affect the division races," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell.
Along with those dramatic playoff chases, many statistical titles and individual awards are still too close to call. Here's a roundup of what's at stake on the final day of the regular season.
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DIVISION RACES AND HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE
National League Central/NL home-field advantage
The Cubs finish the regular-season schedule against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field at 3:20 p.m. ET on Sunday. Left-hander Mike Montgomery is slated to start for Chicago, with rookie right-hander Jack Flaherty scheduled for St. Louis. The Brewers will go for the sweep of the Tigers at Miller Park, with first pitch scheduled for 3:10 p.m. ET. Milwaukee will send veteran left-hander Giovany Gonzalez to the mound, and the Tigers will counter with rookie right-hander Spencer Turnbull.
If Chicago and Milwaukee end up with the same record, they will play a one-game tiebreaker on Monday -- hosted by Chicago -- that will determine the division champion as well as which team will have home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs. The loser of that tiebreaker game would host the NL Wild Card Game on Tuesday.
• Tiebreaker scenarios explained
The Dodgers will start veteran lefty Rich Hill against the Giants, who will send rookie left-hander Andrew Suarez to the mound, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 p.m. ET. And in Denver, the Rockies will send left-hander Tyler Anderson to the mound against the Nationals at 3:10 p.m. ET, and Washington will give the ball to rookie right-hander Erick Fedde.
If the Dodgers and Rockies wind up tied atop the division after their games Sunday, Los Angeles will host a tiebreaker Monday at Dodger Stadium. The winner of that game will play the Braves in the NLDS, while the loser will be the road team in the NL Wild Card Game.
Potential tiebreaker schedule:
If only one tiebreaker game is needed
That game would be played on Monday at 4:09 p.m. ET on ESPN. It could be one of two matchups:
• The Cubs hosting the Brewers at Wrigley Field to determine the NL Central winner, with the loser becoming the home team for the NL Wild Card Game.
• The Dodgers hosting the Rockies at Dodger Stadium to determine the NL West winner, with the loser being the road team in Tuesday's Wild Card Game.
If two tiebreaker games are needed
The first game would be Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET, with the second game to follow at 4:09 p.m.
The 1:05 p.m. game would be the Cubs hosting the Brewers for the NL Central title. The 4:09 p.m. game would be the Dodgers hosting the Rockies for the NL West title. Both games would be on ESPN.
Here's what's settled:
NL Wild Card: The team that finishes second in the NL Central (Cubs or Brewers) will host the NL Wild Card Game, while the NL West runner-up (Dodgers or Rockies) will be the road team.
AL Wild Card: A's at Yankees on Wednesday at 8 p.m. on TBS.
ALDS: Astros will play the Indians, Game 1 in Houston on Friday. Red Sox will host the AL Wild Card winner (Yankees or A's) in the other ALDS, also on Friday.
NLDS: The Braves await the winner of the NL West for Game 1 of the NLDS on Thursday. Which team has home-field advantage is yet to be determined. Atlanta's 90-71 record is tied with both the Dodgers and Rockies going into the regular season's final day. If either the Dodgers or Rockies win the NL West outright on Sunday, with the same record to finish the season as the Braves, the NL West champion will have home-field advantage in the NLDS by virtue of winning the season series against Atlanta (both the Dodgers and Rockies won their season series with the Braves, 5-2).
But in the event that the Braves win and both the Dodgers and Rockies lose on Sunday, and an NL West tiebreaker is needed on Monday, the Braves will have home-field advantage in the NLDS by having a better winning percentage than the NL West winner, who will have played 163 games.
TEAM AND PERSONAL RECORDS
Yelich makes late push for NL Triple Crown
Yelich has been on a tear in the second half of the season, and is even hotter as the season winds down. He launched his 35th and 36th home runs of the season Saturday night against the Tigers, tying the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter for the home run lead. He also leads the NL with a .324 batting average and is just two behind in the RBI department, trailing the Cubs' Javier Baez, 111 to 109. Should he finish the season leading in all three categories, he would be the NL's first Triple Crown winner since the Cardinals' Joe Medwick in 1937.
Rockies' rotation sets sights on history
After another strong start from breakout star Kyle Freeland on Friday, the Rockies' starting rotation has posted an ERA of 4.21, second-best in franchise history. The 2018 Rockies trail only the 2009 team, which posted a starting ERA of 4.10. An undetermined Sunday starter could pitch Colorado to previously unseen heights.
Khris Davis' quest for .247
The A's slugger is leading the Majors with 48 home runs, his third straight year with 40-plus big flies. But he also has the potential to accomplish a unique statistical oddity. Davis enters play Saturday with a .247 batting average... the exact same batting average that he's posted in each of the last three seasons. Yes, this would be the fourth year in a row that Davis hits .247, and there is only one game left. Even in his one full season before this run of .247s began (2014), Davis hit for nearly the same average, .244. According to FanGraphs, the grand total of three points that Davis' batting average has moved over the past five years is the lowest for any qualifying hitter (minimum 350 plate appearances) over a five-year stretch in MLB history.
AL strikeouts leader
With 10 strikeouts over six innings in his final start of the regular season on Saturday, Justin Verlander finishes the 2018 campaign with 290 punchouts on the year, and will be the AL's strikeout king. His Astros teammate, Gerrit Cole, made his final start of the regular season Friday, and will finish runner-up with 276 strikeouts.
AL wins leader
The Rays' Blake Snell, a presumed favorite for the AL Cy Young Award, leads the Majors with 21 wins on the season, settling for a no-decision in Tampa Bay's 3-2 victory over Toronto on Saturday. He gave up one run on three hits, walking four and striking out 10 to cap a stellar season. Cleveland's Corey Kluber will finish second, with 20 wins after he received a no-decision in his final start of the season Saturday.
NL wins leader
The Cubs' Jonathan Lester and the Cardinals' Miles Mikolas each finished their season with 18 wins after Mikolas picked up his 18th victory on Saturday against the Cubs.
NL home runs leader
Yelich and Carpenter pace the NL in homers with 36, though Carpenter has only gone yard once in September. Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado and shortstop Trevor Story currently have 35, with Baez, Jesus Aguilar and Bryce Harper close behind at 34 -- and any of those hitters are capable of going on a final-day power surge to win the title.
MLB stolen-base leader
The Royals' Whit Merrifield stole two bases against the Indians on Saturday to surpass the Nationals' Trea Turner for the MLB lead in steals, 44-43, heading into the final day of the regular season.
Though most players have already compiled their resumes for the leagues' individual awards throughout the course of a long regular season, this weekend offers the presumed front-runners one last chance to make their cases to the voters of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
AL MVP Award
The leaders for the AL MVP Award appear to be a pair of Red Sox teammates: Right fielder Mookie Betts is hitting .346/.438/.641 and should win his first batting title, while designated hitter J.D. Martinez is in the league's top two in all three Triple Crown categories (.329 average, 42 homers, 127 RBIs).
Of course, Angels superstar Michael Trout should be in the conversation for his third MVP Award, as he's on track to post his third career season with at least 10 bWAR and leads the league with a 199 OPS+. Astros third baseman Alex Bregman should also figure into voting, and the Indians have seen a 30-30 season from Jose Ramirez and another stellar campaign from Francisco Lindor.
NL MVP Award
In the NL, Yelich hit for the cycle twice in a huge second half that propelled him to the top of a long list of hopefuls for the NL MVP Award. Yelich (.324/.400/.599 with 36 home runs and 21 steals) is joined by candidates like Paul Goldschmidt, Carpenter, Baez, Arenado, Story and even Jacob deGrom.
NL Cy Young Award
Speaking of deGrom, the Mets right-hander saw his 2018 campaign for the NL Cy Young Award come to an end with a 1.70 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 269 strikeouts in 217 innings, though it remains to be seen if more traditional voters will overlook his win total (10) in judging him against fellow front-runners Scherzer and Aaron Nola, who finished off his season with seven scoreless innings in a victory over the Braves on Saturday.
AL Cy Young Award
The race for the AL Cy Young Award will likely come down to Snell and Boston's Chris Sale, who had arguably his most effective season as a starter but missed a month due to injury. Snell, the only AL starter with a sub-2.00 ERA, leads the Majors with 21 wins.
NL Rookie of the Year Award
Ronald Acuna Jr. and Juan Soto appear to have distanced themselves from the pack for the NL Rookie of the Year Award, and Soto augmented his gaudy rookie-year totals with a 440-foot homer at Coors Field on Saturday, while Acuna and the Braves battle for the NL's No. 2 seed against the Phillies. Among rookie pitching standouts, Dereck Rodriguez (Giants) gave up five runs over three innings against Los Angeles on Saturday, while Buehler (Dodgers) and Flaherty (Cardinals) could make final statements on Sunday.
AL Rookie of the Year Award
A pair of AL Rookie of the Year candidates, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, will help the Yankees tune up for the Wild Card Game this weekend in Boston. Torres belted his 24th homer of the season Saturday, which was also the 265th by the Yankees this season, a new record. Meanwhile Shohei Ohtani will look to finish off his second-half power surge against the A's before he undergoes Tommy John surgery in the offseason.
Do-Hyoung Park is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark.
Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.