Hey, we got our wish! Not only did the Detroit Tigers lock up the No. 5 pick in the 2019 MLB draft on Sunday, but their loss guaranteed that we get to watch baseball on Monday. Milwaukee’s win over Detroit improved their record to 95-67, tying them with the Chicago Cubs atop the NL Central. The two teams will play a tiebreaker at Wrigley Field on Monday afternoon to determine which team has the No. 1 seed in the National League, and which team heads to Baseball Thunderdome on Tuesday evening.
Not to be outdone, the Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers outscored their opponents by a combined 27 runs (with zero allowed) to finish tied atop the NL West at 91-71. Those two will play at Dodger Stadium on Monday, giving us two Game 163s for the first time in MLB history.
While these games don’t share the same stakes as another Game 163 we’re not going to mention, they should still be entertaining affairs, as none of these teams want to play in Tuesday’s Wild Card Game. Both matchups will be televised on ESPN, starting with Cubs-Brewers at 1:05 p.m.
Milwaukee Brewers (95-67) at Chicago Cubs (95-67)
Time/Place: 1:05 p.m., Wrigley Field
SB Nation sites: Brew Crew Ball and Bleed Cubbie Blue
Media: ESPN, MLB.TV (maybe?), WatchESPN
Pitching Matchup: RHP Jhoulys Chacin (15-8, 3.56 ERA) vs. LHP Jose Quintana (13-11, 4.09 ERA)
NL Central Tiebreaker Pitching Matchup
The Brewers have not yet announced a starter for Tuesday’s game, but odds are righthander Jhoulys Chacin will feature heavily, if not take the ball to open the game. [Update: It’s Chacin.] Chacin has arguably been the ace of the Brewers’ staff this year, with nearly 30 more innings thrown than Chase Anderson (who will also probably pitch today). Chacin’s 3.56 ERA is the best among the four Brewers starters who threw at least 100 innings, and behind only Wade Miley among Brewers who made at least 10 starts. Chacin’s peripherals are right in line with what he has produced in recent years, and he has done a good job of limiting home runs (0.82 homers per nine innings).
Tigers fans are familiar with Jose Quintana after he spent so many seasons pitching for the White Sox, but this version of Quintana is a little foreign. His 9.5 percent walk rate this season is the highest of his career, and last season’s bump in strikeout rate has reverted to career norms. He is also allowing 1.33 home runs per nine innings, by far the highest rate of his career. Unfortunately for the Cubs, most of the damage has come in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. He has given up 15 home runs in just 75 2⁄3 innings at home this season, nearly double the rate of homers allowed on the road.
If Quintana can keep the ball in the park, this could be a very low-scoring affair. Both Chacin and Quintana have enjoyed a lot of success against their Monday opponent this season. Chacin is 2-2 in four starts against the Cubs, but has a 1.59 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 22 2⁄3 innings. Quintana, meanwhile, is 4-1 with a 2.17 ERA in six starts against the Brewers. They are hitting a measly .177/.246/.323 against him this year.
Key matchup: MVP vs. MVP
Anyone can play hero in a game like this, but the two with the best odds to do so are Christian Yelich and Javier Baez. Both are in the National League MVP conversation, and for good reason. Yelich leads the National League with 7.4 fWAR, and has been the hottest hitter in baseball since the All-Star break. Baez fell off a bit in August and September, but still produced 5.5 fWAR, fifth-best in the NL (and a tenth of a point away from third). Yelich also has a chance to win himself a Triple Crown on Monday, but has to contend with Baez and Colorado’s Nolan Arenado along the way.
NL Central Tiebreaker Lineups
|Lorenzo Cain - CF||Daniel Murphy - 2B|
|Christian Yelich - RF||Ben Zobrist - RF|
|Ryan Braun - LF||Javier Baez - SS|
|Jesus Aguilar - 1B||Anthony Rizzo - 1B|
|Jonathan Schoop - 2B||Kris Bryant - 3B|
|Mike Moustakas - 3B||Kyle Schwarber - LF|
|Erik Kratz - C||Jason Heyward - CF|
|Orlando Arcia - SS||Jose Quintana - LHP|
|Jhoulys Chacin - RHP||Willson Contreras - C|
Colorado Rockies (91-71) at Los Angeles Dodgers (91-71)
Time/Place: 4:09 p.m., Dodger Stadium
SB Nation sites: Purple Row and True Blue LA
Media: ESPN, MLB.TV (maybe?), WatchESPN
Pitching Matchup: RHP German Marquez (14-10, 3.76 ERA) vs. RHP Walker Buehler (7-5, 2.76 ERA)
NL West Tiebreaker Pitching Matchup
For years, many believed the Rockies would only return to contention once they were able to develop some good homegrown pitching. Those people were correct; Colorado’s two best pitchers this year were both young players drafted and developed in their system, but they weren’t the pitchers most originally expected. Jon Gray is still in the picture, of course, but Kyle Freeland and German Marquez are the reason the Rockies are playing in Monday’s tiebreaker. The two combined for 13.2 rWAR this year, over half of the pitching staff’s overall value.
Marquez, the 23-year-old fireballer, will get the ball on Monday. He has produced significant platoon splits this year, allowing a .337 weighted on-base average (wOBA) against lefties compared to a .255 wOBA to righties. In theory, this does not bode well against the Dodgers, who hit better against righties than lefties. However, Marquez has been a monster in the second half. His strikeout rate is up to 34.7 percent since the All-Star break, and his 28.2 K-BB% is the fourth-best among qualified starters during that span. The guys ahead of him? Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Jacob deGrom.
Walker Buehler’s numbers suggest he won’t be long for this game — he managed just 130 2⁄3 innings in 23 appearances (22 starts) this season — but he has looked more like a traditional starter as the season has gone on. He averaged nearly 6 1⁄3 innings per outing in his final 11 starts this season, and produced a 1.70 ERA in that span. Opponents hit .198/.258/.310 on the year, and he limited opposing hitters to a scant .534 OPS in 68 innings at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers were good at getting him out of the game early, though; he faced 198 hitters a first and second time through the lineup this season, but only faced 111 hitters for a third time. With so much at stake today and a full 40-man roster at their disposal, expect the Dodgers to dip into the pen early.
Key matchup: Marquez vs. the Dodgers bullpen
This game isn’t just a matchup between one starter and a full bullpen, it’s a matchup between philosophies for a winner-take-all game. Is it better to have a dominant starter capable of taking over a game, a la Justin Verlander in some of the Tigers’ previous do-or-die situations (or, you know, the guy starting today’s game), or should teams just bullpen their way through these matchups? Both teams will have their full bullpens available for this one — it’s a regular season game played under regular season roster rules — but Colorado’s revamped ‘pen had the third-highest ERA in the National League this year. Meanwhile, Los Angeles’ bullpen managed a 3.70 ERA, nearly a full run lower than the Rockies. The advanced metrics were much closer, though, and Colorado’s bullpen got much better in the second half. Still, they would much rather have Marquez go deep into the game, something he did in all three of his meetings with the Dodgers earlier this year.