Here’s what Sunday means for NL postseason contenders

Christian Yelich
AP Images
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The Brewers, Cubs, Dodgers, and Rockies are all headed to the playoffs this fall, but Saturday’s games came and went without clear winners established in the National League Central or the National League West. If all four teams pull ahead with wins on Sunday, they’ll force two tiebreakers on Monday when the Cubs host the Brewers for the NL Central title and the Rockies travel west to meet the Dodgers in Los Angeles for the NL West championship.

The losers of the tiebreakers, naturally, will face each other in the Wild Card Game, with the winner scheduled to face off against the highest-seeded division winner in the National League Division Series. The other half of the NLDS will feature the remaining team against the Braves.

The Cubs entered Saturday with a one-game advantage over the Brewers, but dropped a 2-1 squeaker to the Cardinals early in the afternoon and watched the Brewers defeat the Tigers 6-5 to close the gap at the top of the NL Central. Everything will hinge on Game 162, when the Cubs will send left-hander Mike Montgomery up against St. Louis righty Jack Flaherty at 3:20 PM EDT and the Brewers will hang their hopes on Gio Gonzalez over the Tigers’ Spencer Turnbull at 3:10 PM EDT. Should the Cubs gain the edge over their division rival, it’ll mark their third division title in a row and eighth overall (sixth since moving to the NL Central). Should luck falls to the Brewers, on the other hand, it’ll mark their third division title (second since they moved to the National League in 1998) and first since 2011.

Over in the NL West, the Rockies and Dodgers will try to grab a foothold atop the division as they round out their final series against the Nationals and Giants, respectively. After dropping a 12-2 heartbreaker to the Nationals on Saturday night, the Rockies will send Tyler Anderson out against Washington rookie Erick Fedde at 3:10 PM EDT. The Dodgers, meanwhile, will roll with southpaw Rich Hill against Giants’ lefty Andrew Suarez at 3:05 PM EDT. A win for the Dodgers (and loss for the Rockies) would hand them their sixth straight division title and 17th in the NL West. For the Rockies, a division championship would be even more significant, as they’ve yet to clinch a single title in their 26-year history.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.