David Banks/Getty Images

Giants beat Cardinals, Cubs clinch NL Central title

16 Comments

The Cubs weren’t able to take care of their own business against the Brewers to clinch the division on Thursday night, losing 5-4. But they got a little help from the Giants, who beat the Cardinals 6-2, officially making the Cubs the champions of the NL Central.

Against the Brewers, the Cubs took an early 2-0 lead on a Jorge Soler homer, but the Brewers fought back to take a 3-2 lead in the fourth on a Keon Broxton solo homer and a two-run double from Orlando Arcia. They it a 5-3 game in the seventh when Scooter Gennett hit a two-run double of his own. The Cubs rallied in the bottom of the eighth, but could only score one run.

Meanwhile, Hunter Pence gave the Giants an early 2-0 lead of their own with a two-run shot in the first inning. The Cardinals scored once in the third and once in the fourth to knot the game at two apiece, but the tie was quickly broken in the bottom of the fourth as the Giants scored twice thanks to a Johnny Cueto sacrifice fly and an Angel Pagan RBI single. The Giants tacked on two more in the seventh as Denard Span ripped a single to right field with the bases loaded. Cueto was able to outduel Adam Wainwright, pitching nine strong innings. He allowed just the two runs on five hits and a walk with seven strikeouts, throwing 105 pitches.

This is the Cubs’ first division title since 2008 and their second consecutive appearance in the postseason. They beat the Pirates in the NL Wild Card play-in game to enter the NLDS, then defeated the Cardinals in four games to advance to the NLCS. They were stopped there, getting swept in four games by the Mets. The Cubs are hoping for a different fate this year.

The Cardinals-Giants game was also big because its impact on the NL Wild Card race. The Giants now own a one-game lead over the Mets for the first slot, and the Cardinals now trail the Mets by a full game for the second slot.

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

Getty Images
7 Comments

The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.