MLB’s expanded postseason format for 2020 meant the final day of regular season action was meaningful for postseason hopefuls, with two NL slots and the AL Central division crown remaining open. The Toronto Blue Jays also had a chance to secure the #5 seed in the American League with a sweep of the Baltimore Orioles and a New York Yankees loss.
While the Chicago Cubs had already clinched the NL Central division crown with a loss by the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, their opponents for the final weekend, the Chicago White Sox, needed a victory on Sunday to have a chance to take the AL Central Division title.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. had a big day for the Jays, going 4-4 with three runs scored, one dinger and 2 RBI, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the four runs (two earned) allowed by Tanner Roark through 4.0 IP. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. also chipped in a solo home run, but he was the only one of the Jays’ first three batters with a hit against Baltimore.
The Jays’ loss means they finished the season as the #8 seed in the American League and will face the #1 Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Wild Card Series beginning at 5 PM ET on Tuesday.
This is an unfortunate result for the Blue Jays, who will be forced to face one of their toughest opponents of recent years. They finished the year with a 4-6 record in the season series against the Rays and, by my count, have a record of 72-107 (.402) against Tampa over the last ten seasons (2011-2020).
The Cubs surged to an early 7-0 lead thanks to home runs from Kris Bryant and Billy Hamilton, increasing it to 10-1 heading into the 8th inning. The Cubs #1 prospect, the lefty fireballer Brailyn Márquez, had a shaky MLB debut in the 8th inning, allowing five earned runs on two hits with three walks in 0.2 IP, which opened the door to an epic comeback win for the Southsiders, which would have been a major confidence booster on the final day of action.
Duane Underwood Jr. and Andrew Chafin were called upon for the final five outs. Underwood allowed two more earned runs on five hits in 1.0 IP, while Chafin struck out Nomar Mazara to nail down a Cubs victory, earning his third career save.
While I believe the Sox have a shot to win their first World Series title since 2005, the Cubs’ series victory on the final weekend means the Crosstown Cup will remain on the North Side for at least one more year.
The Cubs 34-26 record, the worst of all NL division winners, means they are the #3 seed and will face the #6 Miami Marlins in the NL Wild Card Series beginning at 2:00 PM ET on Wednesday. Unfortunately, this matchup will mean a painful week of Steve Bartman callbacks by national writers and broadcasters. Get your mute buttons ready!
Featured Image: Used MLB baseball by HE Photography / Shutterstock.com.