Orlando Arcia led off the eighth inning with the third of his four hits and trotted home on Lorenzo Cain’s go-ahead single two batters later, delivering the Milwaukee Brewers the National League Central title with a 3-1 tie-breaker victory over the host Chicago Cubs on Monday afternoon.
NL batting champion Christian Yelich had three hits, and five Milwaukee pitchers combined to three-hit the Cubs, assuring the Brewers (96-67) the best record in the NL and home-field advantage at least through the NL Championship Series.
“It’s special,” Cain said after Milwaukee’s eighth consecutive win. “I get to see it every day.”
The Brewers will open the five-game NL Division Series at home on Thursday against the winner of Tuesday’s NL wild-card game between the Cubs (95-68) and the Rockies (92-71). Colorado lost 5-2 to the Los Angeles Dodgers (91-72) on Monday in the NL West tie-breaker game.
The Cubs will host the wild-card game. Jon Lester will start for the Cubs, but Chicago manager Joe Maddon said Cole Hamels and possibly Kyle Hendricks would be available out of the bullpen. Kyle Freeland will start for the Rockies.
“Pretty spectacular season for them,” Maddon said of the Brewers. “Hopefully we get another crack at them.”
On Monday, after starters Jhoulys Chacin and Jose Quintana were long gone following impressive efforts, Arcia’s hit off Chicago’s third pitcher, Justin Wilson (4-5), triggered a two-run, difference-making eighth inning against four Cubs pitchers.
Pinch hitter Domingo Santana sent Arcia to third with a double, after which Cain lined his lead-grabbing single to center field off Steve Cishek.
One out later, Ryan Braun singled off Brandon Kintzler to score Santana and make it 3-1.
Josh Hader, the fifth Brewers pitcher, took care of matters from there, throwing two innings of one-hit relief for his 12th save, striking out three.
He got Anthony Rizzo, who had earlier hit his 25th homer, to fly out to right field to end the game as the potential tying run after Javier Baez kept the Cubs alive with a two-out single.
Corey Knebel (4-3), who pitched a scoreless seventh inning, was credited with the win.
Each starting pitcher handed off the game to his bullpen in a 1-1 tie.
Quintana pitched around six hits in five innings, twice stranding a baserunner in scoring position. He struck out four and did not walk a batter.
Chacin contributed to Milwaukee’s run off Quintana in the third inning with a sacrifice bunt after Arcia led off with a single. Yelich’s RBI single came one out later.
Chacin took a no-hitter into the fifth inning before Rizzo’s leadoff homer. It was the only hit and run Chacin gave up in 5 2/3 innings. He walked two and struck out three.
Arcia scored twice and Yelich ran his batting average to .326 for the Brewers, who won their first NL Central title since 2011.
Rizzo’s homer was the only extra-base hit for the Cubs, who were lost for just the second time in their past six games.
Lester (18-6, 3.32 ERA) was 4-1 with a 1.52 ERA in September. He is 9-7 with a 2.55 ERA in 25 postseason appearances (21 starts).
Freeland (17-7, 2.85 ERA) also finished the season hot, with 11 consecutive quality starts. He has no postseason experience.
—Field Level Media