The Milwaukee Brewers defeated the Chicago Cubs 3-1 on Monday, earning them the 2018 National League Central division crown. By virtue of having the best record in the NL, the Brewers will now host the winner of Tuesday's NL Wild Card Game between the host Cubs and whichever team loses the NL West tiebreaker game between the Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Brewers had previously won the Central just once -- that coming back in 2011. Otherwise, Milwaukee's other division crown came as a member of the American League East, back in 1982. The Brewers of course moved to the AL Central for a number of seasons before ultimately switching to the NL Central following expansion in 1998.
For those who missed the game, let's run through things to know about the outcome.
Yelich, Brewers outfield comes up big
Christian Yelich is, in all likelihood, going to win the NL MVP Award. He came up short in his pursuit of winning the first NL Triple Crown in 81 years, but he padded his numbers all the same.
Yelich went 3 for 4 with three singles, including one to put Milwaukee ahead 1-0 early on. He'll finish the season with a .326 average, giving him the NL Batting Title.
Yelich wasn't the only Brewers outfielder to have a noteworthy afternoon. Lorenzo Cain, Milwaukee's other big offseason addition, knocked in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning. Ryan Braun then added an insurance run with a single of his own. He was later thrown out on a questionable stolen-base attempt.
All told, Milwaukee's outfielder combined to go 5 for 12 with three runs batted in. That'll work.
Counsell leverages bullpen
Entering the afternoon, the big questions were 1) how long Jhoulys Chacin and Jose Quintana would be permitted to work into the game; and 2) how aggressive Craig Counsell and Joe Maddon would get with their top relievers.
Counsell, for his part, had more toys to play with -- and play with them he did. But rather than lean heavily on Josh Hader and Jeremy Jeffress, Counsell opted for an approach that protected him in case the Brewers had to play again on Tuesday.
Counsell went to Xavier Cedeno and Joakim Soria to close the sixth in what was a tied game -- Cedeno departed without recording an out -- before having Corey Knebel work the seventh. He had Brandon Woodruff warming alongside Hader in the top of the eighth, and then turned things over to Hader once Milwaukee took the lead.
From there, Hader did his usual thing. He struck out three of the first six batters he faced, allowing no baserunners before yielding a two-strike, two-out hit to Javier Baez in the ninth. The Cubs never had a chance to tie the game with a swing until then, with Anthony Rizzo up. Hader would retire Rizzo on a warning-track flyout.
And followed up with 99.2 MPH!!! His previous high was 98.4 MPH— Daren Willman (@darenw) October 1, 2018
All told, the Brewers bullpen gave up three two baserunners 3 ⅓ innings -- and two of those were charged to Cedeno -- to go with zero runs and five strikeouts. And Counsell didn't even have to call upon Jeffress.
The Brewers bullpen is going to be a force to reckon with all October. This was just the beginning.
Arcia has career afternoon
Over the season's first 162 games, the Brewers had the seventh most potent lineup in the NL, as judged by runs scored. Their starting eight on Monday included just two potential weak spots, in shortstop Orlando Arcia and catcher Erik Kratz.
Arcia in particular had been poor at the plate this season, compiling a 50 OPS+ in 362 plate appearances. Go figure then that he had a highly productive day at the dish. Arcia recorded four hits and scored twice, including the go-ahead run in the eighth inning.
For perspective, Arcia had never recorded a four-hit game in his career. He did have four three-hit games on the season entering the day, with two of them coming in September, including one against the Cubs. Of all the Brewers to deliver, he seemed the unlikeliest.
That's why they play the games.
Chacin, Quintana last longer than expected
Coming into the game, Chacin seemed likely to have a short leash, given the Brewers bullpen depth. Yet he was able to work deep into the game, exiting two outs in the sixth having held the Cubs to a hit (Anthony Rizzo's home run) and two walks on 75 pitches. Chacin struck out just three, but he got the job done.
Quintana, for his part, allowed six hits in five innings. He struck out four and walked none, though he seemed to allow harder contact throughout. Statcast refutes that assertion: Chacin allowed an average exit velocity around 87 mph; Quintana checked in at 85 mph.
Brewers + Cubs = close games
The Brewers and Cubs are no strangers to tight contests. Entering Monday, they had played 19 times this season, with those games featuring a total margin of victory of six runs.
To break it down further: six of those were decided by one run, two others by two, and four by three runs. That's 12 of the 19 contests that finished in save territory.
These are, by record, the two best teams in the NL. They like to show it off when they play. Depending on what happens Tuesday, that could happen next on Thursday.
Brewers vs. Cubs: Game 163 commentary
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