LEADING OFF: NL Central down to last day, Maddon future?
A look at what’s happening around the majors today:
TO BE DETERMINED
The NL Central race has come down to the final day of the regular season. The Cardinals lead the Brewers by a game after both clubs lost Saturday night. St. Louis fell under a barrage of homers by the Cubs, while Milwaukee closer Josh Hader allowed a tying homer in the ninth before the Brewers lost 3-2 in 10 innings at Colorado.
If the clubs are tied after their regular season finales, they’ll play a tiebreaking Game 163 in St. Louis on Monday. The second-place finisher will play at Washington in the NL wild-card game Tuesday night.
Milwaukee may have to battle on without Lorenzo Cain. The high-flying center fielder sprained his left ankle on a home-plate collision Saturday. The Cardinals, meanwhile, may get bonus drama against Chicago after a shouting match between Yadier Molina and Cole Hamels led to a benches-clearing fracas between the rivals Saturday. Manager Mike Shildt decided late Saturday that ace Jack Flaherty will start the finale.
The Cubs could announce whether manager Joe Maddon will be back next season. The 65-year-old skipper was set to meet with team boss Theo Epstein on Saturday night to discuss their future together.
Maddon is in his fifth season with Chicago and guided the Cubs to that most elusive World Series crown in 2016. They lost in NL playoffs the past two years and, at 84-77, missed the postseason this year.
Bruce Bochy manages his final game, leading the San Francisco Giants one last time when they host the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 64-year-old has already announced his retirement — although there are some who think he’ll be back in the dugout sometime, somewhere.
Bochy is in his 25th season overall, and guided the Giants to three World Series championships. In 12 years with San Diego and 13 seasons with San Francisco, he is 2,003-2,028 overall.
Bochy is sure to get tributes all afternoon at Oracle Park. On Saturday, he was honored on the field when San Francisco Mayor London Breed presented him with a key to the city.
One more thing to watch for: Giants star pitcher Madison Bumgarner isn’t scheduled to start, but he could get a pinch-hitting appearance.
“He’ll have his spikes on,” Bochy said.
The 2014 World Series MVP can become a free agent, and a trip to the plate could give San Francisco fans another chance to cheer him.
FISH OUT OF WATER
Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas will take over managerial duties from Don Mattingly for the final game of the season. Mattingly will be in attendance, but Rojas will make the lineup and dictate the moves. The infielder signed a $10.5 million, two-year extension with Miami last week, and Mattingly teared up at the press conference announcing the deal while praising Rojas’ leadership.
The AL playoff bracket is all set after Oakland assured itself home field for the wild-card game with a win Saturday. The only drama left among the postseason clubs is whether Astros ace Gerrit Cole will get his 20th victory. Cole (19-5, 2.52 ERA) will pitch in front of friends and family at Angel Stadium — he grew up in Newport Beach. The 29-year-old right-hander has already locked up the major league strikeout crown with 316 and he’s in a tight race with teammate Justin Verlander for the AL Cy Young Award.
The Rangers play their 2,081st and final game at the ballpark they have called home since 1994. They are moving across the street next season to a $1 billion-plus stadium with a retractable roof. After the final out Sunday against the Yankees, Texas will mark the transition with a ceremony that will include some of the best Rangers to play there. Among them will be Hall of Famers Ivan Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero, 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton and 3,000-hit club member Adrian Beltre.