Cubs top Brewers, still heading to Pittsburgh for Wild Card Game
MILWAUKEE — The Chicago Cubs gathered around televisions in the Miller Park clubhouse to catch the end of the Reds-Pirates game after beating Milwaukee for their eighth straight win.
Next stop for the Cubs: Pittsburgh.
"We’re going to the ‘Burgh," manager Joe Maddon proclaimed following his team’s 3-1 win Sunday over the Brewers in the regular season finale.
Entering their first postseason since 2008, the Cubs are brimming with confidence even if they must still head to PNC Park for the NL wild card game on Wednesday.
Chicago ended the regular season with a three-game sweep in Milwaukee. Maddon set a franchise record for most wins in his first year with the Cubs with 97.
Starter Dan Haren (11-9) allowed three hits and a walk in six innings. Anthony Rizzo had a two-run single with the bases loaded in the first to reach a career-high 101 RBIs on the season.
"Joe said at the beginning of spring training the hardest thing to do is to crack the postseason the first time and you’d learn how to win," Rizzo said. "I think this organization has really grown."
The Brewers finished with 94 losses, 14 more than 2014.
Entering an offseason of change under new general manager David Stearns, the franchise got a good look at what the end result of a rebuilding project could look like after seeing the Cubs’ rise in the NL Central.
"I think the wheels are going to keep turning," manager Craig Counsell said. "You try to turn them off, but they’re going to probably keep turning as to what’s next, and thinking about what we can do different, better."
Shane Peterson drove in the Brewers’ only run with an RBI ground-rule double in the third.
Travis Wood pitched a hitless ninth for his fourth save.
If Haren pitched the final regular season game of his career, he’s leaving on a high note. The right-handed veteran reiterated that he was done after the 2015 campaign.
"For regular season baseball, that’s it," Haren said. "I have no desire to pitch next year."
But if called upon, Haren wouldn’t mind throwing in the playoffs.
"Just thankful to be part of it," he said.
Double-A call-up Jorge Lopez (1-1) went five innings and gave up three runs, all in the first. The Brewers used an all-rookie rotation for the final 12 games of the season after injuries to Jimmy Nelson and Wily Peralta, and Matt Garza was pulled because of ineffectiveness.
Lopez and Tyler Wagner were two starters called up from the minors who fared relatively well against playoff teams.
"They’ve (pitched) very well. These are Double-A pitchers pitching against 95-win teams in the big leagues," Counsell said. "Most importantly, it’s good for their confidence."
The Brewers finished the season with four straight losses after starting the year 7-18.
"The season kind of ended the way it began for all of us, obviously, not the way we had hoped or anticipated the season going," said outfielder Ryan Braun. "It’s kind of nice now that it’s over, I think it’s a lot easier to be optimistic and to be able to look ahead … and try to find some positives to take from this season."
The bevy of Chicago fans at Miller Park went home happy again. At one point in the eighth, competing full-throated chants of "Let’s go Cubbies" and "Let’s go Brewers" ringed the stadium.
Cubs: Chicago ends the regular season with two players on the disabled list, both right-handed pitchers: Jason Motte (right shoulder strain) and Jacob Turner (right shoulder inflammation). Turner spent the whole year on the DL.
Brewers: Manager Craig Counsell said he didn’t think that the lower back injury that bothered Braun in September and sidelined him the last week of the season was too serious.
"I don’t see it being a factor at all next season," Counsell said.
Cubs: After making his last regular season start on Friday, ace Jake Arrieta (22-6) would work on normal rest to start the NL wild card game against Pittsburgh. The team was planning to travel to Pittsburgh on Monday evening.
Brewers: The team is already looking forward to next year, with pitchers and catchers scheduled to report on Feb. 19 at the spring training complex in Phoenix.