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.

Cubs acquire Martín Maldonado from the Royals

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Last night Cubs catcher Willson Contreras was placed on the injured list with a strained muscle in his right foot. That injury inspired the Cubs to go out and get another catcher. They acquired Martín Maldonado in a trade with Kansas City in exchange for lefty Mike Montgomery, in a deal that was announced after the Cubs loss to the Reds.

Maldonado, 32, was a Gold Glove winner in 2017 with the Angels. At the moment he’s hitting .227 with six homers and 17 RBIs in 74 games. Obviously, though, defense is his calling card, as he’s a .220 career hitter with 57 homers and 210 RBIs in 686 games.

Montgomery, 30, is 1-2 with a 5.67 ERA in 20 relief appearances for the Cubs this year. He’s heading back to where his pro career began. He was drafted by Kanas City in 2008, though he was traded away in the James Shields/Wade David/Wil Myers deal in 2012. He made his big league debut for Seattle in 2015. Dayton Moore said last night that the Royals plan to use Montgomery in the rotation as a replacement for Homer Bailey, who was dealt to Oakland on Sunday.