Brewers beat Cubs to win NL Central title

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If Game 163 was any indication, the other four teams in the National League draw of the postseason are going to have their hands full with the Milwaukee Brewers. Their hitting today was timely, their bullpen deadly and as a result they beat the Cubs 3-1 to take the NL Central title.

The teams felt each other out for the first two innings but the Brewers drew first blood in the top of the third. Orlando Arcia kicked things off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice and then made it to third on a groundout. That’s when presumptive MVP Christian Yelich came up with two outs and, with Jose Quintana and the Cubs choosing not to pitch around him as so many other teams have done recently, drove in Arcia to make it 1-0 Milwaukee.

The Cubs tied things up in the fifth inning when Anthony Rizzo hit a deep homer to right field. The thing flew 429 feet and left in a dang hurry:

The score would remain tied at one until the eighth inning when Milwaukee broke through. Leading off was Arcia once again and, once again, he reached on a single. Domingo Santana doubled Arcia to third to put two men in scoring position with no one out. That’s when Joe Maddon called in Steve Cishek to face Lorenzo Cain. The plan did not work, as Cain singled to center, scoring Arcia and moving Santana to third, giving the Brewers a 2-1 lead:

Maddon went to the pen once again, calling for Brandon Kintzler to face Ryan Braun. That didn’t work either, as Braun served a 2-2 pitch into right center to score Santana and make it 3-1:

The Cubs finally got out of that, but then they had to face Josh Hader for six outs and, folks, they were not doing a dang thing against Hader.

The Brewers’ fireballing lefty struck out two of the three batters he faced in the eighth and then came back in the bottom of the ninth for more. Hader struck out Daniel Murphy, got Ben Zobrist to fly to right, leaving Javier Baez as the Cubs’ last chance. Baez worked Hader for a 3-2 count and, after fouling off several pitches, singled to center field to keep the Cubs’ hopes alive.

Those hopes only lasted for one more batter, however, as Anthony Rizzo strode to the plate to face the lefty Hader and . . . flew out to right. Game over.

The single to Baez aside, Hader was dominant. Arcia went 4-for-4 and scored twice. Christian Yelich went 3-for-4 and he, Braun and Cain each drove in a run. The Brewers have a guy who is probably going to win the MVP award, but they have so many weapons that can beat you.

And now, after Game 163, they have the NL Central title.

Report: Yankees, Reds finalizing trade for Sonny Gray

Sonny Gray
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Barring physicals and roster reshuffling, the Yankees and Reds are all but ready to finalize a deal involving right-hander Sonny Gray, Fancred’s Jon Heyman reported Saturday. The exact return has not been confirmed, but Heyman hears that the Yankees will receive top infield prospect Shed Long and a draft pick in exchange for Gray, with an as-yet unnamed third player possibly involved as well.

According to several reports earlier in the day, negotiations came down to the wire as the Yankees first had their eye on the Reds’ no. 6 prospect, 22-year-old catcher Tyler Stephenson. The Reds ultimately elected to hang on to Stephenson and send Long to New York, as they currently have a greater need for catching depth and weren’t expected to be able to provide a full-time role for the infielder in 2019. Long, 23, is ranked seventh in the Reds’ system and appears to be nearing his MLB debut after batting .261/.353/.412 with 12 homers and a .765 OPS across 522 PA at Double-A Pensacola last year.

Gray figures to step into a prominent role within the Reds’ rotation, which is likely to be a mix of recently-acquired left-hander Alex Wood and right-handers Tanner Roark, Luis Castillo, Anthony DeSclafani, and Tyler Mahle, among several others. Despite Gray’s struggle to remain productive on the mound — he’s three years removed from his only All-Star campaign and turned in a disappointing 4.90 ERA and 2.16 SO/BB rate in 2018 — he might yet help stabilize a team that trotted out the fifth-worst rotation in the majors last season. If, on the other hand, the veteran righty finds the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ball Park a little too unforgiving this year, the Reds can take some comfort in the fact that he’s due to enter free agency in 2020.