Giants beat Cardinals, Cubs clinch NL Central title

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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.

Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.