Anthony Rizzo had four hits and scored three times, and the Chicago Cubs set up a tiebreaker game for the NL Central title by beating the St. Louis Cardinals 10-5 on Sunday.
Shortly after Milwaukee completed an 11-0 victory over Detroit, Jorge De La Rosa worked a hitless ninth inning to move the Cubs back into a tie with the Brewers at 95-67. The crowd of 39,275 roared in delight after Francisco Pena flied to right for the final out on a wet, cool afternoon at Wrigley Field.
Now, everything gets real crazy.
Chicago hosts Milwaukee on Monday afternoon and the Colorado Rockies visit the Los Angeles Dodgers as baseball holds a pair of tiebreaker games on the same day for the first time. At stake is the postseason road for each club.
The winner at Wrigley gets a spot in the division series and home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs. The loser plays again Tuesday night, hosting the runner-up in the NL West in the wild-card game.
St. Louis (88-74) was in contention heading into the final week of the season, but it was swept by Milwaukee before dropping two of three against Chicago. Catcher Yadier Molina, outfielder Marcell Ozuna and infielders Kolten Wong and Jedd Gyorko were held out of the finale due to nagging injuries.
St. Louis missed out on the playoffs for a third straight year for the first time since it went 75-86 in 1999. It finished with a 41-28 record under Mike Shildt, who took over as manager after Mike Matheny was fired on July 14.
The only other time Chicago began the final day of the regular season tied for the lead in its division or league was in 1908, when it beat Christy Mathewson and the New York Giants 4-2 at the Polo Grounds for the NL pennant. The Cubs then won their second straight World Series title before enduring a championship drought that cruised past a century before they won it all again in 2016.
Rizzo and company are looking for another October run, but they have been plagued by an inconsistent offense. It looked like more of the same when Jack Flaherty (8-9) cruised into the third inning with a 2-0 lead and then retired the first two batters.
Then everything changed.
The next six batters reached for Chicago, producing four runs. Rizzo hit a tiebreaking double to give him 100 RBIs on the year, waving his arms in the air as he coasted into second. Jason Heyward added an RBI single.
The Cubs broke it open with four more in the fifth. Kris Bryant roped a two-run double into the left-field corner. Two batters later, Willson Contreras hit a drive to left for his first homer since Aug. 1.
Allen Webster (1-0), the first of eight Chicago relievers after Mike Montgomery was pulled in the third, got two outs for the win.
Jose Martinez, Paul DeJong and Patrick Wisdom each had two hits for St. Louis, which left 12 runners on base. Yairo Munoz finished with three RBIs.
Up next for the Cubs Jose Quintana is expected to start the tiebreaker game for Chicago. The veteran left-hander is 6-2 with a 1.60 ERA in 10 career starts against Milwaukee.