Brewers top Tigers; NL Central tiebreaker vs Cubs next
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Winning seven straight games stamped the Milwaukee Brewers' ticket to meet the Chicago Cubs and their boisterous fans at Wrigley Field.
Triple Crown contender Christian Yelich and the Brewers advanced to an NL Central tiebreaker against the Cubs, putting themselves in position Sunday with an 11-0 romp over the Detroit Tigers.
Both already assured playoff spots, the Brewers (95-67) meet the Cubs on Monday afternoon in a one-game matchup for the division title. The loser will host the NL wild-card game Tuesday vs. the loser of the Colorado-Los Angeles Dodgers tiebreaker in the NL West.
"Expecting it to be fairly hostile tomorrow," Yelich said.
"Any time we play the Cubs, it's a hostile environment, especially in Wrigley Field. It's going to be a lot of fun. We're looking forward to it."
The Cubs beat Milwaukee 11-8 in the season series, but Milwaukee won four of the last six games.
"We've played each other really tough all year," Yelich said. "So, it's only fitting we got to do one more."
Chicago beat St. Louis 10-5 on the final scheduled day of the regular season.
"It's going to come down to execution like it has all year," said Yelich, who is batting .175 with 16 strikeouts, no home runs and five RBIs in 15 games against the Cubs this season.
Yelich went 0 for 2 with two walks and scored twice against Detroit, ending his 10-game hitting streak. He is hitting .323 in his first season with Milwaukee, locking up the first batting title in Brewers' history.
Robin Yount, Milwaukee's two-time AL MVP and Hall of Famer, was on hand to cheer for Yelich. Yount came the closest (.331) to the batting title in 1982 but finished a decimal point behind Kansas City Royals' Willie Wilson (.332).
"That's pretty cool," Yount said in the Brewers clubhouse. "I'm pulling for him."
Yelich has 109 RBIs, tied with Colorado's Nolan Arenado and two behind leader Javier Baez of the Cubs. Yelich's 36 home runs are tied with Colorado's Trevor Story and St. Louis' Matt Carpenter, one behind Arenado.
The tiebreakers are considered game No. 163 of the regular season, meaning Yelich's stats — and those of Arenado and Baez — from Monday's game will count in the totals. The last NL player to win the Triple Crown was Joe Medwick in 1937 for the Cardinals.
The crowd of 41,848 at Miller Park serenaded Yelich with "MVP! MVP!" when he went to right field in the top of the first and then came to bat in the bottom of the frame.
Yelich walked and scored on Jesus Aguilar's single in the first, struck out swinging in the third and fifth and was walked intentionally in the seventh as the fans booed the move. He came out of the game in the eighth to a thunderous ovation.
Typically low key, Yelich thought manager Craig Counsell's move to send in Hernan Perez for him was "pretty cool."
Yelich tipped his cap just before ducking into the dugout as the crowd roared its approval.
"I didn't really know what to do," Yelich said. "I told Couns (Counsell) after I came off the field that I don't know what I was supposed to do there. So, I hope that was good enough. The fans have been awesome all year. They really came out and showed their support for us this last series."
The Brewers already had secured their first playoff appearance since 2011, the last time they won the NL Central.
At the start of September, the Brewers were in third place and five games behind the Cubs with the Cardinals in second. Milwaukee went on a 19-6 tear to finish strong.
"If we didn't turn it around, we wouldn't be going to Chicago," Counsell said.
Gio Gonzalez (10-11) toiled efficiently through five scoreless innings in his fifth start since being acquired on Aug. 31 from Washington. The left-hander, who helped the Nationals win four division titles in the last six seasons, scattered three hits.
Aguilar hit his 35th homer, connecting in the fourth off Spencer Turnbull (0-2). Aguilar added an RBI grounder in the seventh.
The Brewers, who went 86-76 last year, scored six times in the seventh. Ryan Braun and Orlando Arcia had two-run doubles.
Travis Shaw hit his 32nd home run in the eighth.
The Tigers, under first-year manager Ron Gardenhire, lost their fifth in a row and finished 64-98 for the second consecutive season. Gardenhire, who previously managed the Minnesota Twins (2002-2014), replaced Brad Ausmus.
"The hope here is that we are doing exactly what we said we were going to do," Gardenhire said of the rebuilding process. "We are going to rebuild this thing and start from the ground level up. We're going to get young again next year. As long as we can keep them playing hard and start paying attention to the details of the game, we'll be OK."
VICTOR MARTINEZ FARWELL
The five-time AL All-Star with the Cleveland Indians (2004, 2007, 2009), the Boston Red Sox (2010) and the Tigers (2014) played his final came of his 16-year major league career Sept. 22 when he started in Detroit against Kansas City.
"You have the luxury of getting to watch a guy wind down his career right in front of your eyes," Gardenhire said. "He meant so much to these guys in the clubhouse. After the big guy, (Miguel) Cabrera, got hurt, Victor kind of took over that leadership role, which he didn't have to do. He was one of our leaders anyway. But he stepped up. It was about everything he did for these guys. Talking to them when they needed that. You've got to have a veteran presence."