Under.500 and trailing Milwaukee in the division race at the All-Star break, the Cubs turned things around with a stellar second half. No room but the bullpen exists for John Lackey, despite a strong start in the clincher. He's one of the best teammates and one of the best people I've ever got to play with. A 5-run seventh, propelled by an Addison Russell 3-run homer, gave the Cubs all the run support they would need.
The St. Louis Cardinals look for a win after losing four of their last five games.
"It's fun to be a team that people want to beat", Cubs infielder Kris Bryant said.
"We know road ahead is going to be tough". He has made two career starts against Chicago, both in 2016, and he went 0-1 with a 7.04 ERA in those outings.
The Cubs became the second visiting team to celebrate a title at Busch Stadium III. Kyle Hendricks gets the ball, and he is 7-5 with a 3.14 ERA and 114 strikeouts this season.
Meanwhile the Cubs, who rested all of their regular starters for Thursday's game, will get to head home to Wrigley Field for a final three game series against the Cincinnati Reds before their postseason begins against the Washington Nationals next week. It just happened to be here. But it definitely gave me a lot more respect for the team.
Lackey (12-11) retired the final 10 batters he faced.
Schwarber singled off Matt Bowman (3-6) with one out in the 11th to start the winning rally.
Bottom Play (WPA): Lackey dominated through six innings, and only found himself in a tight spot once. Jason Heyward followed Russell with a run-scoring double. Though they lost Wednesday 5-1 to the Cubs, this wasn't technically an elimination game for the Cardinals.
"We're getting ready for tomorrow", Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. Entering the season with a handful of veteran hangers-on, the Cardinals spent most of this year slowly detaching those players long after their expiration dates. "We've got some good, consistent performances. Our season is not over".
"I think it's been wonderful", said Matheny. "I don't really care about the Nationals".
Jen-Ho Tseng (1-0) picked up his first major league victory with three scoreless innings of relief. In that span, he struck out eight and walked none. NY still hopes to chase down first-place Boston in the AL East, but is likely to host Minnesota in the one-game playoff next Tuesday night. But every last bit of postseason hope came crashing down Thursday night.
J.D. Martinez hit his 45th home run.
YANKEES 6, RAYS 1 Luis Severino cruised through his final postseason tuneup and Starlin Castro, Greg Bird and Aaron Hicks all homered during a four-run sixth inning, lifting NY over visiting Tampa Bay.
As Eamus Catuli reset to zero in November, a sense of fait accompli accompanied every playoff discussion about the Cubs since, so much so that you wondered whether winning a division title would produce a celebration or a shrug.
They have sorted out the postseason rotation - sort of.
PITTSBURGH - Josh Bell hit his 25th homer, and Gregory Polanco added a solo shot as Pittsburgh defeated Baltimore.