After Ted Lilly pitched six no-hit innings Saturday in the Cubs' 7-3 victory, Milwaukee found itself back in a tie with the New York Mets for the wild-card playoff spot, setting up what could be a fantastic finish to a wild, wild season for the Brewers.
"Well, this wild-card thing goes down to the wire [Sunday], or Monday, possibly," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.
CC Sabathia will start on three days' rest Sunday against reliever Angel Guzman, who will pitch only an inning or two as Piniella uses a "bullpen day" to close out the season before the playoffs begin for the Cubs on Wednesday.
"We're going to pitch a lot of people," he warned.
While the New York Mets may not like the matchup, Piniella is doing what he thinks he needs to do to get the Cubs ready for the playoffs. He isn't worried about whether the Mets or Brewers are upset with the decisions he has made over the final week.
Milwaukee is looking to end a 26-year absence from the postseason, and Sabathia is expected to carry the load as only he can do. After starting out 4-15 in September, the Brewers won five straight before Saturday's loss.
"That's the thing about baseball," Milwaukee manager Dale Sveum said. "It's such a strange roller-coaster ride."
Few teams have gone on as wild a ride as the Brewers, who fired manager Ned Yost on Sept. 15 and gave Sveum the reins for the rest of the season. Three days later, when Milwaukee blew a game in which it had a four-run, ninth-inning lead over the Cubs with two outs and nobody on, most looked at them as dead men walking.
"Anything can happen," Sveum said. "Those are learning experiences. You can take what you want from it. It was a tough night for everybody.
"But these kids are all grown men with families, and sometimes people forget about that fact. They have a lot of character, and they've gone through adversity before and they handled it very well, obviously."
The Brewers recovered at the right time, and center fielder Mike Cameron believes the reasons are obvious.
"It's perseverance, a little bit of luck and a whole lot of good ballplayers starting to play man for man," Cameron said.
On Saturday, Lilly earned his 17th victory, allowing one run on two hits in six-plus innings. He entered the seventh with a no-hitter, just as he did in his last start here against Houston on Sept. 15, starting with six no-hit innings in the makeup of a Cubs-Astros game postponed by Hurricane Ike.
Ryan Braun broke it up Saturday with a double to left, and Lilly was removed after Prince Fielder's bloop single off Ronny Cedeno's glove.
Even if Lilly still had the no-hitter intact in the seventh or eighth, he believed Piniella would have been right to take him out instead of overextending him in his final start before a possible Game 4 of the National League Division Series.
"I don't think there's any need to do that," Lilly said. "Obviously it would have been more fun to try and take that a little deeper and make it more interesting, but Ryan Braun is a very good hitter."
After Lilly left, and the Brewers crept within a run at 4-3, Kosuke Fukudome hit a two-run homer off Salomon Torres in the Cubs' three-run ninth to put it away.
Now the season will be ending with a bang, as the Brewers try to end their 26-year-drought against a team that feels like it owns Miller Park.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun