Though a formality at this point, the Cardinals officially clinched the NL Central tonight with a 7-0 blanking of the Cubs. The offense got to Cubs starter Travis Wood early, scoring three times on a two-run double by Yadier Molina and an RBI single by Jon Jay. Wood exited after the first, as the one inning put him exactly at the 200-inning mark.
David Freese hit a solo home run off of Cubs reliever Brooks Raley in the third. The Cardinals added two more against Raley in the fourth on a bases-loaded walk by Matt Holliday and an RBI ground out by Molina. Matt Holliday crushed a solo home run into the bullpen at Busch Stadium in the bottom of the sixth against reliever Blake Parker.
Meanwhile, Cardinals starter Laynce Lynn was nearly untouchable, holding the Cubs scoreless over six innings on four hits and no walks while striking out nine. Kevin Siegrist, Edward Mujica, Carlos Martinez, and Trevor Rosenthal combined for three scoreless innings to wrap up the game.
The Cardinals aren’t done playing meaningful baseball yet, however. They are tied with the Braves at 95-65. The team with the best record gets home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and gets to play the winner of the Wild Card playoff game, ostensibly weaker than either remaining divisional winner.
The story of the Indians postseason cannot be told without talking about injuries to starting pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. They have forced Terry Francona to lean even harder on his bullpen than he otherwise may have and have cause the Indians to press rookie Ryan Merritt into service.
But Cleveland will be getting at least one of their starters back: Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway that Danny Salazar will be part of the World Series roster.
Salazar has not pitched since early September due to a strained right flexor muscle, but according to Callaway, Salazar is ready to throw 65-70 pitches in a game. That could mean a start, probably in Game 4 after Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin. Merritt was a possible Game 4 starter, but he could either pair up with Salazar in a tandem start or serve in long relief.
Cubs’ left fielder Kyle Schwarber missed virtually the entire 2016 season due to torn knee ligaments, but he has been working his way back to health more quickly than initially expected. Indeed, he has been playing for the Cubs in the Arizona Fall League, serving as a DH. Many have speculated that the Cubs will activate him for the World Series.
Today, at his World Series media session, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said that reports from Arizona are good on Schwarber and that the he will fly to Cleveland to join the team after tonight’s game in Arizona. Maddon says the team will make a decision on activating him once he arrives. The Cubs have until tomorrow morning to set their World Series roster.
Our guess is that Schwarber will get the call and will serve as the DH for the Cubs in Games 1, 2 and, if necessary, 6 and 7 in Cleveland. If so, a lost season could very quickly turn into a storybook season for the Cubs’ young slugger.