Less than 24 hours after winning the division thanks to Milwaukee's loss at the hands of San Diego, Rich Hill came out and tossed a stunning game against the Reds.
Rich Hill went six innings, allowing just one hit while Sean Marshall and Scott Eyre contributed three hitless innings to complete the one-hitter. The lineup, which was missing Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Cliff Floyd, Jacque Jones, Mark DeRosa, and Jason Kendall still came through against the Reds' ace, scoring four times in the game's first three innings. For once, it was good to be able to watch a Cubs' game without having to live and die with every pitch and not being eliminated from the playoffs either. In recent past, too many of the Cubs games that didn't count for anything was because we were already mathematically eliminated, but today it was the other way around.
Ted Lilly will start tomorrow, but it would be interesting to see how Piniella decides to handle the pitching. With the lefty being scheduled to be game 2's starter, that would be short rest. Obviously, Lilly wouldn't have pitched a full outing anyway, but there's no question that he needs some work in between now and the playoffs; otherwise, he'd have eight days in between starts.
The bullpen is going to be tough to control as well. With two off-days before the postseason starts, guys could get rusty. If Wood doesn't pitch tomorrow, it'll be five days in between appearances for him and if Marmol doesn't pitch in the final game of the regular season, that'll put six days between outings. For Dempster and Howry, it would be four days, so you've got to assume that each of the big four will get to pitch tomorrow.
Handling Jason Marquis also becomes interesting. With Rich Hill looking like he's won the job as the starter for game 3, Jason Marquis would have ten days' rest in between starts if he doesn't throw tomorrow. However, with only a finite amount of innings in tomorrow's game, giving Jason three or four innings doesn't seem like a possibility. Perhaps he does some side work during the off days and pitches out of the bullpen in game 1?
Working with the starting players seems a little difficult too. Certainly you don't want to sit all of them again as that would put four days off in between live game action for those guys, but Piniella probably doesn't want all of his regulars going the whole nine innings either. I expect Lou to give his regulars two (or even three) times at-bat in the season finale before turning the game over the the reserves like he did from the very beginning today.
Where to? With more finals coming in today, the first round opponent seems to be getting clearer and clearer. With the Padres loss to the Brewers today, we know that it won't be San Diego in the first round. While mlb.com still lists the Diamondbacks' magic number to clinch the west as 1, Arizona can already consider themselves champions of the west. That's because they own the tiebreaker over the Padres; should the two teams finish in a tie (and the Snakes have guaranteed at least that), Arizona would be crowned champions without a playoff.
The Mets and Phillies are now tied atop the east once again and San Diego leads the wild card over both of those teams by one game. Should both of the east teams win tomorrow and the Padres lose, we would have a three-way tie for two playoff spots. In that scenario, the tie for the eastern division would be broken at Philadelphia on Monday with the loser of the division playing the Padres for the final spot on Tuesday.
The Rockies still have a back door in as well. Should the Rockies, Padres, Mets, and Phillies all end the season with 89 wins, repeat the same scenario as above, except the winner of Tuesday's game would have to host Colorado on Wednesday.
If the Mets and Phillies both make the playoffs, the Cubs would have to travel to the east for the first round of the playoffs. If not, the first two playoff games for the Cubs would be at Chase Field.