(CBS Local/CBS Chicago)- 162 regular season games have been played, records have been broken, World Series winning managers have departed and the field has been narrowed in the competition for the Commissioner's Trophy.
Four full months of baseball action now comes down to a field of 10 teams. Despite all of the drama that the Wild Card race promised, the teams that have been leading for much of the last month ended up on top. Now, the Wild Card teams gear up for a win-or-go-home game while the rest of the playoff field rests up and gets its rotation set for their quest for a title.
Meanwhile in Chicago, Sunday marked the end of an era for Cubs fans. The team announced that they and manager Joe Maddon had parted ways after five seasons. Maddon's tenure in Chicago saw him bring the long-suffering fan base a World Series title and it's unlikely that his name will be soon forgotten in the Windy City.
Like the Cubs playoff bid, the New York Mets came up short in the end. But, Mets fans had plenty to cheer about over the weekend as the man nicknamed "Polar Bear" set a new league record. In the process, the rookie slugger knocked a crosstown rival's name out of the record books. It doesn't get any sweeter than that for Mets fans.
Playoff Field Set
The MLB playoffs are officially locked in and there will be just the singular one-game playoff in each league between two Wild Card teams. That is despite a month of speculation as to whether we could end up with multiple teams tied for the second Wild Card spot. In the end, the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays outlasted the Cleveland Indians in the American League.
In the National League, the Milwaukee Brewers and Washington Nationals captured the two spots, holding off the aforementioned Chicago Cubs, New York Mets and others.
The NL will kick off the Wild Card action with the Brewers heading to the nation's capital for the matchup with the Nationals on Tuesday night. Start time for the game is set for 8:08 p.m. Eastern Time. The Brew Crew will send Brandon Woodruff to the mound while the Nats counter with Max Scherzer. The winner of the matchup will then move on to the divisional round where they will meet the top-seeded Los Angeles Dodgers.
On Wednesday night, the American League takes the spotlight as the Oakland A's welcome the Tampa Bay Rays to the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum for the play-in game. The Rays are sending their ace, Charlie Morton to the bump while the A's have not yet announced who their starter will be. First pitch in that game is set for 8:09 p.m. Eastern Time. On deck for the winner? A date with the Houston Astros in the divisional round.
As for the other two divisional series, the AL Central champion Minnesota Twins will face the AL East winning New York Yankees. And in the National League it will be the NL Central champion St. Louis Cardinals battling the NL East winners, the Atlanta Braves.
The start times for the divisional round matchups have not been set, but we do know the days each series will begin. For the National League, both the Cardinals-Braves and Dodgers-Wild Card winner will start on Thursday. The American League battles between the Twins-Yankees and Astros-Wild Card winner will start on Friday.
Joe Maddon And Cubs Part Ways
The Chicago Cubs were hoping to be playing October baseball, but instead finished five games back of the Brewers due to a 2-8 record in their final 10 games of the season. At the end of that stretch, it's no surprise that some change was in the offing.
On Sunday, the team announced that manager Joe Maddon would not be receiving a new contract and they would be moving on to other candidates. The move was not surprising nor was it contentious as Maddon and club president Theo Epstein discussed the decision on Saturday night over a few bottles of wine.
"We both agreed that this type of change – that it's time, and that this type of change is a win-win," Epstein said. "It's going to be great for Joe, at a wonderful point in his life. He won't talk about this right now, but I will – there's going to be a bidding war for his services, and there should be."
In five seasons with the Cubs, Maddon compiled a 471-339 record with four playoffs appearances and, most importantly, a World Series title in 2016. Now, moving forward, the 65-year-old manager is likely to be one of the top candidates available this winter as teams begin to make changes to their coaching staff.
Pete Alonso Sets New Rookie Record
While Cubs fans end the season toasting the end of an era, Mets fans are toasting the beginning of what they hope is a long career for a young star. First baseman Pete Alonso is the top candidate for the National League's Rookie of the Year award and he provided plenty of joy throughout the season with his light tower power. On Saturday, Alonso gifted fans one more moment of joy as he knocked Yankees slugger Aaron Judge from his perch atop one of the league's records.
Alonso drove his 53rd homer of the year off Atlanta Braves pitcher Mike Foltyniewicz and passed New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge for most homers in a single season by a rookie. In addition, Alonso leads the league in homers this season with that total. He became the first rookie since Judge (2017) to accomplish that feat. In a season in which the team fell short of the playoffs, Alonso gave fans plenty to cheer about.
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