The Milwaukee Brewers’ torrid stretch has not only secured them a playoff berth, but a chance of taking its second straight NL Central title.
Entering the final weekend of the regular season, the St. Louis Cardinals hold a one-game lead in the division over the Crew. The Cardinals host the Chicago Cubs for a three-game set, while the Brewers will look to build on their 20-4 September with three games in Colorado.
The good news for St. Louis is that the Cubs, losers of nine in a row, are in a free fall. Chicago manager Joe Maddon told reporters this week that his recently eliminated club may not put out his lineup of regulars with nothing to play for, much to the dismay of the Brewers.
“We’re going to put a good team out there, but of course they’re going to (expletive),” Maddon said, according to ESPN. “Of course they are. I get it. But quite frankly, there are certain things I don’t give a (expletive) about. And that would be one of them.
“I will put out the guys that I think are the appropriate guys to play based on what’s good for our people, not for their people. But we’re going to put a good team out there regardless.”
Shortstop Javier Baez, third baseman Kris Bryant and first baseman Anthony Rizzo have all been banged up during the season’s final month. They are among the primary candidates to receive some rest this weekend. Alec Mills, with 31 major league innings under his belt, will start Friday. Cole Hamels, who missed his most recent turn in the rotation with a sore shoulder, is set to pitch a few innings Saturday, but only to prove he’s healthy entering free agency.
“This is the first time I’m going into free agency and I don’t want that in the back of team’s heads,” Hamels told reporters.
No starter has been announced for Sunday, and Maddon indicated it could be a “bullpen game.”
Another underlying factor in the series is Maddon’s seemingly imminent exit from Chicago. The latest losing streak has all but sealed his fate, as his current contract expires after the season.
Entering the offseason, Maddon may not be the lone Cubs’ big-name departure. President of baseball operations, Theo Epstein will have to make the difficult choice of whether to invest once more in the core that brought the team its first championship in 108 seasons three years ago, or to break it all up.
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