Though it is cliché, it truly has come down to the wire.
Entering the final weekend of the 2019 regular season, the 90-69 Cardinals hold a one-game lead over the Brewers in the National League Central with a magic number of three games to clinch the crown. (Remember, the magic number can be reduced by Cardinals wins and Brewers losses.) Both teams have clinched postseason berths, so whichever team does not win the division will face the Nationals in the Wild Card game. The Brewers have won 18 of their last 20 games, and the division crown will remain up for grabs until at least Saturday. The Brewers are on the road this weekend to take on the Rockies in Colorado (Go Rox!), while the Cardinals will host the Cubs at Busch.
The Cubs come into St. Louis this weekend with a nine-game losing streak and will take on a Cardinals bunch with a 49-29 record at home.
Also worth noting...
With Cubs out, Maddon isn't playing his "A" lineup in St. Louis, so @Brewers can start their bitching now: "Of course they're going to bitch, and I get it, but quite frankly, there are certain things I really don't give a shit about, and that would be one of them."— Paul Sullivan (@PWSullivan) September 26, 2019
The series between the Cardinals and Cubs will open on Friday evening, with Dakota Hudson and Alec Mills as the starting pitching matchup. Hudson was pulled in the fourth inning of his last start, back on 9/21 in Chicago. Hudson allowed three earned runs and walked four batters, forcing in two runs in the first inning. Hudson has a 2.89 ERA in 16 starts at home this season.
Mills faced the Cardinals on 9/20 and turned in 4 2⁄3 innings of scoreless ball with six punchouts. For Mills, it was his first scoreless start of the year for the Cubs and longest since late-July. Since being recalled when rosters expanded at the beginning of the month, Mills has allowed just one run in 10 2⁄3 frames, complemented by a 15:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the span.
Saturday’s ballgame will have Adam Wainwright and Cole Hamels on the hill. The Cardinals bumped Wainwright’s start up to Saturday, in hopes that their veteran right-hander can continue his dominant month and help them clinch the division. Wainwright allowed five runs in as many innings in his last outing, back on 9/23 against the Diamondbacks. In five September starts, Wainwright has a 1.69 ERA, with opponents hitting just .237.
Hamels will make his 27th start of the season on Saturday; this will make 2019 just the third year out of his 14 seasons in the Majors in which he has fewer than 28 starts. The 35-year-old Hamels has an ERA of 6.40 over nine starts since early August. Marcell Ozuna has three home runs off Hamels in his career, and Matt Carpenter is 5-for-15 off the lefty.
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is 10-for-29 (.345) with two home runs in his last seven games.
Sunday is the final day of the regular season. All games start at 2:15 PM Central time, and this will make any scoreboard-watching very dramatic. Neither club has announced their pitching plans for this game. Jack Flaherty and Miles Mikolas will be the options for St. Louis, with Flaherty the likely candidate to start if the Cardinals are still striving for the division. The Cubs noted that Sunday could be a bullpen game for them, with Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish already shut down.
So, to recap:
Friday, 9/27, 7:15 | Hudson vs. Mills | ESPN 2, FSMW, KMOX, WJIR, CRN
Saturday, 9/28, 6:15 | Wainwright vs. Hamels | FOX, KMOX, WJIR, CRN
Sunday, 9/29, 2:15 | Both starters TBD. | FSMW, KMOX, WJIR, CRN
Notes from around the league:
- Mets outfielder Jeff McNeil was hit by a pitch in Wednesday’s game against the Marlins and suffered a bone fracture in his right wrist. McNeil will miss New York’s final weekend of the season and have surgery next week.
- With a Jonathan Schoop dinger on Thursday afternoon, the Twins became the first team in MLB history to hit 300 home runs in a single season. With 99 victories at the start of play Friday, the Twins have a chance to become the American League’s third 100-win team of 2019.
- The Braves will rest Ronald Acuna Jr. for the remainder of the regular season, as the 21-year-old recovers from a groin strain. Acuna will fall short of a 40/40 season; in 156 games, Acuna, following up his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2018, Acuna hit 41 home runs and stole 37 bases. Acuna is expected to return for the NLDS.