One thing will be certain when the Brewers and Cubs are meeting right now at Wrigley Field for one game to decide the National League Central and the NL's No. 1 seed for the postseason.
"There's nothing to hide," said Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell.
These teams know each other well after battling into September for the division crown each of the past two seasons. Now they'll play into October, after both Interstate 94 rivals won convincingly on Sunday to forge identical 95-67 records and force a regular-season Game 163. The winner gets to rest up to host Game 1 of the NL Division Series on Thursday. The loser will host the NL Wild Card Game on Tuesday night.
The Cubs are hosting the tiebreaker by virtue of winning the season series between the teams, 11-8. But that doesn't tell the whole story, since the Cubs dominated early, winning eight of the first nine matchups before the Brewers came back to win seven of the final 10 games and a pair of September series.
When is the game and how can I watch it?
LIVE on ESPN.
Do the stats count?
Yes, it's a regular-season game, so the stats count. And teams will also have access to the expanded 40-man rosters they've had all September.
This means the NL Triple Crown is still in play for Brewers NL MVP Award candidate Christian Yelich. He has the batting title locked up, with his .323 average in no danger of dropping below Scooter Gennett's second-place mark of .310. Yelich also heads into Game 163 with 36 home runs, one behind NL leader Nolan Arenado, who homered twice on Sunday, and 109 RBIs, two behind NL leader and Cubs NL MVP Award candidate Javier Baez -- though Baez and Arenado can also pad their numbers today. Yelich only needs to equal Arenado's and Baez's totals to earn the honor; he does not need to pass them.
Who will be in the starting lineups?
- Lorenzo Cain, CF
- Christian Yelich, RF
- Ryan Braun, LF
- Jesus Aguilar, 1B
- Jonathan Schoop, 2B
- Mike Moustakas, 3B
- Erik Kratz, C
- Orlando Arcia, SS
- Jhoulys Chacin, SP
- Daniel Murphy, 2B
- Benjamin Zobrist, RF
- Javier Baez, SS
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Kristopher Bryant, 3B
- Kyle Schwarber, LF
- Jason Heyward CF
- Jose Quintana, SP
- Willson Contreras, C
Who are the starting pitchers?
Brewers: Counsell didn't immediately announce his pitching plan, though right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (15-8, 3.56 ERA) was ultimately tabbed as the starter this morning. He's the steadiest member of Milwaukee's rotation, and he went 2-2 with a 1.59 ERA in four starts vs. the Cubs this season, including allowing just one earned run in 12 innings at Wrigley Field.
Cubs: Quintana (13-11, 4.09 ERA) will face the Brewers for the seventh time this season. The lefty is 7-4 with a 4.28 ERA at Wrigley Field this season, but he's 4-1 with a 2.17 ERA against the Brewers in 2018, and 6-2 with a 1.60 ERA against them in 10 career starts. That includes 6 2/3 scoreless innings on Sept. 11 at home. Milwaukee is batting .177 against him, including a 1-for-11 by Yelich. Quintana pitched in every Cubs-Brewers series this season.
"If I was them, obviously that's the guy who makes the most sense," said Braun, who is 6-for-29 against Quintana with a pair of home runs in a Milwaukee win on Aug. 14 at Wrigley Field. "He's had so much success against us. But they have a lot of good starters to choose from. They couldn't go wrong, really, with any of their guys."
Said Schwarber: "Whenever 'Q' toes the mound for us, we're really confident and it doesn't matter what team we're facing. It's going to be good. Tomorrow will be a game where nothing will be left on the field. Look for a good overall quality game from both teams."
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Brewers: Beating the Tigers, 11-0, on Sunday was critical for the Brewers, who were without some of their hard-worked, high-leverage relievers and would have had to take some chances in a close game. Now they are better positioned to use the likes of Josh Hader, who had Saturday and Sunday off, and Corey Knebel and Jeremy Jeffress, both of whom had Sunday off after pitching the previous two days.
Cubs: Maddon was able to use his second tier of relievers on Sunday, keeping Jesse Chavez and Justin Wilson fresh. The Cubs' bullpen boasts the best ERA in the NL, but Maddon does not have a closer. The Cubs have been trying to survive without one since Brandon Morrow was injured in mid-July. It's been mix and match in the ninth inning for much of the season.
Are any relievers unavailable or being saved for a potential NL Wild Card Game?
Brewers: Hader is, as always, the most interesting question mark. When he's rested, he is one of the most dominant relief pitchers in the game. But it typically takes two days of rest to get him at his best, so if the Brewers use him Monday and lose, he may not be available on Tuesday.
"It can't be your last game," said Counsell, "and I think that matters."
Cubs: Maddon said he will essentially be managing two games today -- the tiebreaker and a potential NL Wild Card Game. The one reliever who has been shaky is right-hander C.J. Edwards On Sunday, Edwards uncorked a wild pitch, gave up a two-run single that allowed two inherited runners to score and walked a batter, recording only two outs in the sixth. The short outing eventually forced Maddon to call on workhorse Steve Cishek, who threw 10 pitches.
"You have to consider both games," Maddon said. "Of course, you want to win [today], of course you'll try to win [today]. If it gets more bleak, you'll have to consider the next day."
Any injuries of note?
Cubs: Reliever Pedro Strop won't be available. He's nursing a sore left hamstring and is hoping to be active for the NLDS.
Yelich: Besides being 1-for-11 against Quintana, Yelich is just 10-for-57 (.175) this season with no home runs against the Cubs. He'll need to turn that around to author the sort of finish required to become the NL's first Triple Crown winner since the Cardinals' Joe Medwick in 1937. One relief matchup to watch: Yelich is 2-for-17 in his career against Cubs lefty Jorge De La Rosa.
"It's going to come down to execution, like it has all year," Yelich said. "It's going to be a fun one."
Baez: Baez, who notched his 52nd multihit game of the season on Sunday, won't want to see Brewers reliever Knebel, against whom he is 2-for-11 with seven strikeouts. Baez is 3-for-6 with a triple against Jeffress but batted .238 against Milwaukee this season with zero home runs.
Anything else fans might want to know?
The forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with game-time temperature around 68 degrees, but it's always cooler with unpredictable wind by Lake Michigan.