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.

Zack Wheeler will miss at least two starts when his wife gives birth

Zack Wheeler miss starts
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Per The Athletic’s Matt Gelb, Phillies starter Zack Wheeler will miss at least two starts when his wife goes into labor and gives birth to their first child, expected to be later this month. Wheeler, in fact, is not sure if he will return to play at all once their child is born.

Wheeler said, “We just have to see how things are here at the field and at the stadium. I’m happy with what I see so far. But things could change, especially once our baby’s born. I always think about what’s going on around me. Is it safe? Is it OK? Literally every single day. I have to just ask myself that. I’m going to continue to keep asking myself that every day.”

Wheeler, 30, inked a five-year, $118 million contract with the Phillies in December. He is slated for the No. 2 spot in the rotation behind Aaron Nola. Last season, with the Mets, Wheeler posted a 3.96 ERA with 195 strikeouts and 50 walks over 195 1/3 innings.

The No. 5 spot in the Phillies’ rotation is currently up for grabs between Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez, Ranger Suárez, and prospect Spencer Howard. One of the remaining three could fill in for Wheeler when he needs time off, temporarily or otherwise.