It could be a very memorable night Thursday at Wrigley as the Cubs look to nail down the franchise’s first division crown in eight years. The Cubs are one win or a Cardinals loss away from being the NL Central Division Champions.
The Cubs have won 20 of their last 29 games and are 40-17 in the second half. If the Cubs are able to reach a season-high 42 games over .500 on Thursday night, Maddon’s team will be division champions. And while the Cubs are ready to party before shifting their focus, Joe Maddon would like to see it happen sooner rather than later.
Let’s do it,” Maddon said. “Why not? It would be a nice thing to do. The sooner we get it done, and then we can make our appropriate plans moving forward.”
Jon Lester shut the Cardinals down for eight innings Wednesday in the Cubs 7-0 victory in St. Louis. Lester allowed just three singles and a walk while striking out eight. The Cardinals did not have a runner reach second base. And, Lester drove in the first run of the game with single to center in the third inning.
The Cubs took two of three in St. Louis behind two dominant pitching performances. Kyle Hendricks no-hit the Cardinals for eight innings and Lester blanked the Redbirds for eight innings. Hendricks and Lester allowed a combined one run on four hits in 16+ innings.
With his second straight scoreless outing and having allowed just one run in his last four starts, Lester passed Noah Syndergaard and now has the second lowest ERA in all of baseball. Lester lowered his ERA on the season to 2.40. Only his teammate, Kyle Hendricks, has a lower ERA.
Kyle Hendricks (2.03), Lester (2.40), Syndergaard (2.43), Madison Bumgarner (2.66), Tanner Roark (2.75), Max Scherzer (2.78), Johnny Cueto (2.90), Jake Arrieta (2.91), Jose Fernandez (2.99) and Chris Sale (3.03) own the best earned run averages in Major League Baseball.
According to Christopher Kamka, the Cubs have not had pitchers finish 1-2 in baseball in ERA since 1938 and it has only happened three times in franchise history … Mordecai Brown and Jack Pfiester in 1906, Jack Pfiester and Carl Lundgren in 1907 and Bill Lee and Charlie Root in 1938. And the last Cubs’ left-hander to finish a season with a lower ERA than Lester currently has was Dick Ellsworth (2.11) in 1963.
Lester is 3-0 in his last three starts with a 0.38 ERA and 0.67 WHIP. Lester has given up one run on 13 hits with three walks and 19 strikeouts in 24 innings. The only run during that span, a solo home run by Hunter Pence.
In his last 11 starts, Lester is 8-0 with a 1.47 ERA and 0.91 WHIP (12 runs, 47 hits, 20 walks, 71 strikeouts, 73 1/3 innings) and the Cubs are 10-1 in those 11 games. Lester is the only qualified starting pitcher without a loss in the second half according to ESPN Stats and Info.
“You didn’t see this guy that much lat year. This is the guy that I’m used to seeing,” David Ross said to the beat writers. “This whole run he’s been on is maybe as good as I’ve seen. Right now he’s the complete pitcher. He’s sinking it. He’s throwing his cutter. He’s got a four-seam in and out. He’s got a really good changeup and his curveball. It’s nice for me to have that many options to call a game. It makes my job really easy.”
- Report from Comcast SportsNet
- Report from The Sun-Times
- Report from Carrie Muskat
- Report from ESPN Chicago
Mike Montgomery and the Rotation
Mike Montgomery is set to make his fifth start with the Cubs on Thursday night at Wrigley. The Cubs begin a four-game series with the Brewers in what could be a special night at the old ballyard.
The Cubs play the next 10 games at home before leaving on a seven-game road trip on Sept. 26 to end the season.
Joe Maddon confirmed Wednesday with Carrie Muskat that Montgomery will likely make two more starts, counting Thursday’s opener with the Brewers. Maddon basically said the same thing during his weekly spot on 670 The Score this past Tuesday.
And while the Cubs are denying conversations have taken place about the postseason roster and rotation, all signs are pointing to Jon Lester being lined up to start game one of the NLDS.
Cubs-Brewers Probable Starters
The Cubs kick off the final homestand of the regular season on Thursday night (7:05pm CDT).
To put it simply, if the Cubs beat the Brewers on Thursday they are NL Central Division Champs. They could still win the division on Thursday if they are unable to beat the Brewers and the Cardinals lose.
This Cubs’ team deserves to celebrate a division title after winning a game. They have worked incredibly too hard not to be able to jump up and down as Wrigley erupts around them.
The Cubs and Brewers posted their probable starters for the four-game series.
- Thursday, Sept. 15 (7:05pm CDT) – LHP Mike Montgomery vs. RHP Jimmy Nelson
- Friday, Sept. 16 (1:20pm CDT) – RHP John Lackey vs. RHP Chase Anderson
- Saturday, Sept. 17 (3:05pm CDT) – RHP Jake Arrieta vs. RHP Zach Davies
- Sunday, Sept. 18 (1:20pm CDT) – RHP Kyle Hendricks vs. RHP Wily Peralta
News and Notes
• After humbling rival Cardinals, the Cubs are eager to concentrate on the big prize according to the Tribune. The Sun-Times reported on the Cubs 7-0 win over the Cardinals to drop the magic number to 1. Joe Maddon doesn’t worry about post-clinch hangover for the Cubs according to Comcast SportsNet. The Sun-Times reported the Cubs’ party wagon heads to Wrigley for a shot at clinching Thursday.
• Anthony Rizzo’s predictions of greatness are coming true for Cubs.
• The Tribune reported the Cubs are on the verge of celebrating at home, where the party should be, but then what?
• FanGraphs made the case for Kris Bryant for National League MVP.
• Kris Bryant is one of four Cubs hitters with a 7+ WAR in their age 24 season according to Baseball Reference, joining Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Ryne Sandberg.
• Willson Contreras is a fighter, a winner and a crier according to the Sun-Times.
• Mets’ dominant playoff pitching lingers in mind of Joe Maddon according to the Tribune.
• Ben Cherington was named Blue Jays Vice President of Baseball Operations. According to Jeff Passan, Cherington turned down an interview with the Twins and isn’t the only baseball executive to do so. Passan reported “multiple general manager types have rebuffed their interest so far.”
• According to Buster Olney, the Dodgers are struggling against lefties, but it may not matter.
Jon of all trades. pic.twitter.com/kN5bdfq4cz
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 15, 2016
— MLB (@MLB) September 14, 2016
This Day in Cubstory
2010 – The Cubs completed the first three-game sweep in St. Louis in more than 20 years. The Cubs topped the Cardinals 7-3 to complete the first sweep since June 12, 1988.
2009 – Cubs released Ezequiel Astacio
2002 – Sammy Sosa collected his 100th RBI of the season on a three-run homer in the eighth inning of a 6-0 shutout over the Reds. Sosa joined Mel Ott and Willie Mays as the only three players in National League history to drive in at least 100 runs in eight straight seasons.
1998 – Cubs signed amateur free agent Felix Sanchez
1992 – Cubs signed amateur free agent Julio Zuleta
1971 – Burt Hooton struck out 15 Mets in his second big league start as the Cubs posted a 3-2 victory at Shea Stadium and completed a doubleheader sweep. Billy Williams smacked a pinch-hit homer in the ninth inning for the winning run. Cubs won the first game 6-2 behind Bill Hands.
1970 – Ken Holtzman won his 15th game of the season in a 5-3 victory over the Cardinals. The Cubs moved into third place behind the first place Mets and Pirates.
1968 – Ernie Banks played in his 2,245th game in a Cubs uniform, surpassing Cap Anson, as the Cubs blanked the Phillies 4-0 behind Ferguson Jenkins at Philadelphia.
1964 – Larry Jackson gave up six hits in a 6-1 victory over the Reds at Wrigley Field. Jackson became the season’s first 20-game winner and posted a 24-11 record for the eighth place Cubs.
1930 – Hack Wilson hit home run No. 50.
1902 – Only 260 fans witnessed the first Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance double play as the Cubs beat the Reds 6-3 behind Carl Lundgren at West Side Grounds