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.