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Cubs clinch NL Central with 5-1 win over Cardinals

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The Cubs clinched the NL Central on Wednesday evening, defeating the Cardinals 5-1 in St. Louis. It marks the club’s second consecutive division title and third consecutive playoff appearance.

The Cubs trailed the Cardinals 1-0 through six innings, but broke out in the seventh against starter Michael Wacha. Addison Russell belted a three-run home run and Jason Heyward hit an RBI double. After walking Rene Rivera, Wacha was lifted, but Tommy La Stella added an RBI double of his own to make it 5-1.

John Lackey pitched six effective innings for the Cubs, giving up just the one run on two hits and two walks with three strikeouts. Pedro Strop worked a 1-2-3 seventh inning. Hector Rondon, Brian Duensing, and Carl Edwards, Jr. combined to load the bases in the eighth inning, but managed to escape with no damage. Wade Davis sealed the deal in the ninth, working around a two-out double.

The Brewers fell behind 6-0 to the Reds after three innings, so the Cubs likely would’ve clinched anyway on Wednesday, but I’m sure they’re happy to have taken care of their own business and had the ability to celebrate on the field.

The Cubs will prepare for an NLDS matchup against the Nationals, as the Dodgers will play the winner of the Wild Card game.

Yankees keep ALCS hopes alive with 4-1 win over Astros

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The Yankees defeated the Astros 4-1 during Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night, staving off a potential postseason elimination and forcing the series to at least six games.

In just the third playoff appearance of his career, Yankees southpaw James Paxton turned in another impressive performance, limiting the Astros to four hits and four walks over six innings of one-run ball. According to MLB Stats, his nine strikeouts made him the second Yankees lefty to record multiple starts of 8+ strikeouts in the same postseason campaign, two decades after David Wells did so for the 1998 championship-winning club.

Paxton’s strong outing was backed by a handful of runs from DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Hicks, both of whom went deep against Astros ace Justin Verlander in the bottom of the first inning. LeMahieu’s leadoff solo shot marked his first postseason home run since Game 1 of the ALDS, while Hicks’ three-run 347-footer was his first home run of any variety since July 24 (and his first in the playoffs since the 2017 ALDS).

Neither team managed a single run after the first inning, leaving the two pitching staffs to duke it out for eight quick innings. Verlander outlasted Paxton — taking the game through the seventh with five hits, four runs, and nine strikeouts — but even with a flawless contribution from Brad Peacock in the eighth, there was little the hurlers could do to help the Astros solve Paxton and an airtight Yankees bullpen.

With the win, the Yankees will try to push the series to a full seven games in order to snatch the AL pennant from the Astros. They’ll have to do in Houston, however, as the Astros will regain home field advantage when Game 6 kicks off on Saturday at 8:08 PM EDT. Neither starter has been announced yet; per Houston skipper A.J. Hinch, it will likely be a bullpen day.