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: Pirates to convert JB Shuck into two-way player

JB Shuck
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Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.

Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.

Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.

Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.