CHICAGO — In the matter of just a few hours Monday, the Chicago Cubs went from being tied for the best record in the National League to finding themselves playing for their baseball lives on Tuesday.
Despite that, however, they are just glad to still be alive.
The Cubs will look to extend their season on Tuesday when they host the NL Wild Card Game against the Colorado Rockies at Wrigley Field. Chicago (95-68) missed on a chance to host the NLD when they lost to the Milwaukee Brewers 3-1 on Monday in the one-game tiebreaker for the Central Division title.
Instead, they will host the Rockies (91-72), who dropped a 5-2 decision to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Monday’s other divisional tiebreaker. With the loss, the Rockies will fly cross-country to face the Cubs for the right to play the Brewers, who will host the NLDS starting Thursday.
The loser of Tuesday’s game will see their season end. The Cubs and Rockies split their six games this season, the last of which was played at the beginning of May. Each team scored 33 runs over the six games.
“It’s the seventh game of the World Series right out of the chute,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said after his team managed just three hits Monday.
Maddon added: “There’s no lamenting; there’s no crying. There’s none of that.”
Ace Jon Lester will start for the Cubs. Lester (18-6, 3.32 ERA) has been on a roll of late and has won his past three starts and four of his five outings in September. Lester hasn’t allowed an earned run in two of his previous two starts but is 1-3 with a 2.25 ERA in five career starts against Colorado. Maddon said Monday that if needed, starter Cole Hamels could be available out of the bullpen if it meant allowing the Cubs to live to see another day.
“We’ve got a lot of playoff experience in this locker room and I think that’s kind of what we have to pull on,” Hamels said Monday. “There’s a lot of teams that are at home right now and I think they would love that one more opportunity to play a meaningful game. That’s what we have to look at.”
Like the Cubs, the Rockies struggled to find their offense in Monday’s loss. Colorado was no-hit for 5 2/3 innings and finished with just four hits before finally scoring a pair of runs in the ninth inning on back-to-back solo home runs by Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story.
Now, the Rockies will face a do-or-die scenario.
Kyle Freeland (17-7, 2.85) will start on three days’ rest for Colorado and has not lost since Aug. 1. Freeland is 5-0 in September and is 9-1 with a 2.41 ERA in 14 starts since the All-Star break. Freeland is 0-2 in a pair of career starts against the Cubs with a 4.15 ERA.
“I’m looking forward to the battle in Chicago,” Freeland said, according to the Denver Post. “I’ve done everything I could to get my arm feeling good from my last start and it feels good right now. I’m ready to go and I’m not to worry about being on short rest.”
Like the Cubs, the Rockies feel they have their best option on the mound.
“He’s been our best guy. It seems like every time he’s out there, we’re winning, we have a chance to win, or we do win,” outfielder Charlie Blackmon told the Post.