The Chicago Cubs' route to the NL Central Division Title was a lot more difficult this season than it was last year, but in the end, they got the job done. It became official on Wednesday with a 5-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, clinching their second straight division title. Addison Russell's three-run home run supported John Lackey's performance, as the Cubs got the job done in their second effort with a magic number of one. Lackey lasted six innings and allowed just one run, as the Cubs overcame being under .500 and trailing the Milwaukee Brewers at the All-Star break with a strong second half. Their started retired the final 10 batters he faced on Wednesday and recorded his 12th win of the year. The Cubs are now the first defending World Series Champions to win their division the following year since the 2009 Philadelphia Phillies, and first defending champs to make the playoffs the following season since the 2012 Cardinals. Michael Wacha looked good early on for St. Louis, needing just 60 pitches to get through six innings, although, he allowed the first six Cubs to reach in the seventh inning, including Russell's home run. Paul Dejong drove in the only run of the game for St. Louis with an RBI single in the second. The Cubs also found out that they will face the Washington Nationals in the NLDS, meanwhile, the loss dropped the Cardinals elimination number to one.
Red Sox Cut Magic Number to 2 With Win
The Boston Red Sox have struggled this final week of the regular season with an AL East Division Title hanging over their heads. Although, they got back on track on Wednesday with a 10-7 win over the Toronto Blue Jays, cutting their magic number to 2 for the division crown. Rick Porcello earned his 11th win by pitching into the sixth inning, while the Red Sox pounded Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada for seven earned runs in the win. Estrada lasted just 2.1 innings, as Xander Bogaerts' three-run home run ended his tough line, and blew the game open in the third. Toronto had taken the first two games of the series, and got off to a 3-0 start in the first on a Justin Smoak RBI double and a Jose Bautista two-run home run. Hanley Ramirez added a long-ball in what was a five-run third inning that gave the Red Sox a 9-4 lead, helping them snap a two-game losing streak that followed a six-game winning streak. David Price got his third look out of the bullpen for Boston, and struck out three over 1.1 scoreless innings. He is now 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA and nine strikeouts in six relief innings. The Red Sox can clinch the division with a Yankees' loss to the Rays and a win for them over the Houston Astros on Thursday night.
Twins Clinch Playoff Spot
The Minnesota Twins made history on Wednesday despite them falling to the Cleveland Indians on the road. After the defeat, the team stayed in the clubhouse to watch the Los Angeles Angels lose on a walk-off to the Chicago White Sox, which clinched a playoff spot for the Twins. That makes them the first team in MLB history to lose 100-plus games one season, and then make the postseason the following year. They went 59-103 as the last place team in the AL Central in 2016. Minnesota will be on the road for the Wild Card Game against either the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox on October 3rd. They can thank Nicky Delmonico, who connected with a two-run home run in the 10th inning for a 6-4 White Sox win over the Angels, who are officially eliminated from playoff contention. This came hours after the Twins fell to the Cleveland Indians, 4-2, which kept their magic number at one. Minnesota can quietly be hoping for the Yankees to win the division so they can face the Red Sox in the one-game playoff, since the Yankees have eliminated them from the playoffs four times since 2003. They still have a few regular season games left, including on the road Thursday afternoon against Cleveland, and then a three-game home series with the Detroit Tigers.