What You Need to Know: Through six innings, it appeared as though claiming the division crown would have to wait one more day for the Cubs (or, at least until the Milwaukee game ended). Michael Wacha stymied Cubs hitters while John Lackey dueled with Cardinals hitters almost as effectively, but a breakthrough sixth plated five runs, and the Cubs clinched the NL Central for the second year in a row.
Next Level: This game marked the first Cubs clinch via a victory since clinching with a win over the Cardinals in a Saturday home day game in 2008. Once again, the Cubs have done something they haven’t done in over a century: their three consecutive playoff appearances is the first time they’ve accomplished that feat since 1906-1908.
If you remember your history, you’ll remember that the Cubs lost the 1906 World Series to the crosstown White Sox (despite winning 116 regular season games, still the record). BUT! They then secured two straight World Series championships—their last until 2016.
Top Play (WPA): Wacha cruised into the seventh having allowed only three baserunners, but a leadoff walk to Anthony Rizzo began to turn the game’s momentum. Ben Zobrist followed with a single to right as Rizzo rounded second and headed to third, bringing up the evening’s hero. Addison Russell launched a fat 92 mph fastball into the left-field bleachers, giving the Cubs a 3-1 lead that they would not relinquish (+.278).
A pair of doubles by Javier Baez and the red-hot Jason Heyward scored another run, and Tommy La Stella capped the inning’s scoring with yet another double.
Bottom Play (WPA): Lackey dominated through six innings, and only found himself in a tight spot once. In the second, the righty walked Jedd Gyorko to lead off the inning and gave up a single to Jose Martinez. Antioch Community High School and Illinois State graduate Paul DeJong followed with a run-scoring single to center (-.092), but Lackey was able to quell the threat with a double play and a groundout.
The Cubs are 2017 NL Central champions. Onward.
Lead photo courtesy Jeff Curry—USA Today Sports