Cubs

Dodgers join Cubs in postseason, clinch third straight NL West title

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Dodgers join Cubs in postseason, clinch third straight NL West title

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Clayton Kershaw pitched the big-money Dodgers to their third straight NL West title, tossing a one-hitter as Los Angeles beat the San Francisco Giants 8-0 on Tuesday night.

Kershaw allowed just a third-inning single and struck out 13, and now he'll get a chance to erase those sour postseason memories as the Dodgers (88-69) advance to face the NL East champion New York Mets in a best-of-five Division Series.

Kershaw (16-7) finally got the best of his 2015 nemesis in the fourth matchup of the year against World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner, striking out the side in order three times and retiring the final 19 batters as the Dodgers snapped a four-game losing streak.

"There's a little bit, if you don't win this one then you've got two more and you start getting a little nervous, you start panicking a little bit," Kershaw said. "We've still got something to play for. We're still trying to fight the Mets for home-field advantage. It's kind of a sigh of relief. We weren't playing that well."

Don Mattingly's Dodgers earned a third straight playoff berth for the first time in franchise history, and did so by snapping a seven-game losing streak at AT&T Park this year. It's also their sixth postseason berth in 10 years.

When Kelby Tomlinson grounded out to end it and rookie shortstop Corey Seager made a nice throw to first, Kershaw raised both arms in the air as his teammates streamed out of the dugout. They all began hugging and dancing on the mound.

"He knows what he needs to do against these guys," catcher A.J. Ellis said.

The Giants immediately offered a message on the main scoreboard: "CONGRATULATIONS, L.A. DODGERS! (hash)RESPECTTHERIVALRY"

Los Angeles players stayed on the field for several minutes, pulling on their new NL West champion caps.

Justin Ruggiano and Ellis hit back-to-back home runs in the sixth to chase Bumgarner (18-9), denying the Giants their first 19-game winner in 18 years.

Andre Ethier added a two-run triple in a four-run eighth, and Los Angeles captured its 14th NL West title and earned their 29th playoff berth - 20th in Los Angeles. Ellis and Seager added run-scoring singles that inning.

Los Angeles lost a four-game division series to St. Louis last October and the club hasn't reached the World Series since winning it all in 1988, losing in either the division series or NL Championship Series in its last eight postseason appearances since.

Now, with two of the top pitchers in the game - Zack Greinke and Kershaw - stellar rookies such as Seager and outfielder Joc Pederson, veteran infielder Jimmy Rollins and August acquisition Chase Utley leading a loaded bench, the Dodgers are counting on a deep October run.

"It's a fun mix, it's a talented mix and hopefully it's the right mix," Kershaw said.

They got this far with huge expectations under first-year President of Baseball Operations, Andrew Friedman, and new general manager Farhan Zaidi - and with a whopping regular-season payroll of $285 million.

It took a few days longer than expected to secure their latest playoff berth after a surprising sweep by last-place Colorado at Coors Field over the weekend and a 12-inning loss Monday night. But, the way it worked out, the Dodgers got to celebrate on the home field of their rival at sold-out AT&T Park.

"They've won three out of the last five," Mattingly said. "You've got to earn it."

The only other time in the ballpark's 16-year history that a visiting team clinched a playoff berth or series here was the Dodgers when they captured the NL wild card on the second-to-last day in 2006.

Before the game, an impatient fan yelled to Los Angeles reliever Kenley Jansen, "Stop messing around!" To which Jansen fired back from the dugout: "We're not messing around. We tried to clinch 3 days ago."

The Dodgers ended their longest skid in San Francisco since June 12, 1961-April 16, 1962, when they lost a franchise-worst nine straight road games in the rivalry.

Kevin Frandsen's one-out single in the third was the Giants' first baserunner against Kershaw.

But the defending champion Giants miss the playoffs in another odd year following a World Series win for the third time in six years - after their 2010, `12 and `14 titles.

Bumgarner allowed Justin Turner's first-inning sacrifice fly and a leadoff homer to Kike Hernandez in the third.

The big lefty had been 2-0 with a 1.31 ERA in his previous 2015 outings opposing Kershaw, who had gone 0-2 with a 3.54 ERA in those starts.

He won't forget watching the Dodgers celebrate here.

"You take that, and you remember that feeling going into the offseason. It's not a good feeling," he said. "You don't want to be a part of that. You want to be the one celebrating. You let it give you a little bit of fuel for next year."

Forget 2015, the Brewers are more like 2016 Cubs

Forget 2015, the Brewers are more like 2016 Cubs

With the Milwaukee Brewers about to kick off the NLCS, many Cubs fans and pundits have taken to comparing them to the 2015 Cubs.

At first glance, it's easy to see why — they're in the playoffs for the first time as something of an underdog and "surprise" team — but that's not the recent Cubs squad we should be comparing the 2018 Brewers to.

This Milwaukee team is a lot more like the 2016 Cubs.

Here's why:

1. They're not a surprise.

Nobody expected the 2015 Cubs to win 97 games and wind up in the NLCS. They were expected to compete very soon, but everything went right in a red-hot August, they rode Jake Arrieta's right arm to the NLDS and then toppled the Cardinals to get to the LCS, where they ran into the brick wall that was Matt Harvey and and the Mets pitching staff.

The 2018 Brewers are not — and should not be — a surprise. Anybody who was caught off guard by this team being so good hasn't been paying much attention. The Brewers were leading the NL Central in 2017 for much of the year before a late-season fade that coincided with the Cubs' late-season surge.

This Milwaukee squad was always supposed to be one of the top teams in the NL in 2018 and they really hit their groove in September to chase down the Cubs. Still, it took a Game 163 to force a changing of the guard atop the division.

2. They greatly improved expectations with a big free-agent OF signing over the winter.

The Cubs had Jason Heyward in between 2015 and '16. The Brewers had Lorenzo Cain.

Cain has provided quite a bit more offense in the first season of his 5-year, $80 million contract but both Cain and Heyward provided leadership in the clubhouse and elite defense in the outfield in the first years with their new teams.

3. The Brewers have the NL MVP.

This one's an easy comparison to make, though Cubs fans will hate it.

Christian Yelich is this season's NL MVP. Sorry, Javy Baez fans. "El Mago" had a great season, but it's impossible to give the award to anybody but Yelich.

Yelich winning the league's most coveted accolade would be another perfect tie-in to the 2016 Cubs, who had Kris Bryant take home NL MVP.

4. They have a dominant LHP out of the bullpen.

Josh Hader has been doing his best Aroldis Chapman impression in 2018 as an absolutely dominant southpaw out of the bullpen. Unlike Chapman, Hader's spent all season with the Brewers, but like Chapman in '16, Hader will be leaned on heavily for multiple innings throughout the rest of the playoffs.

5. They picked up some valuable in-season assets.

The 2016 Cubs dealt for Chapman, but they also traded for reliever Joe Smith and called up Willson Contreras in the middle of the year, who provided a spark for the offense.

The 2018 Brewers have acquired plenty of valuable assets along the way this season from Mike Moustakas to Jonathan Schoop to Erik Kratz (more on him later) to Gio Gonzalez. But one of their most important additions (especially in October) was the promotion of top prospect Corbin Burnes, a flame-throwing right-hander who posted a 2.61 ERA in 30 regular-season games and allowed only 1 hit in 4 shutout innings in the DS.

6. They're on a mission with a chip on their shoulder.

The 2015 Cubs had a little bit of a chip on their shoulder as they attempted to take down the divisional powerhouse that was the St. Louis Cardinals. But again, they were a surprise contender - even within that clubhouse (especially early in 2015). But after falling short in the NLCS, the Cubs retooled over the winter and came back with one goal in mind - to win the World Series.

It was a goal they accomplished. We'll see if the Brewers will be able to do the same, but they certainly came to play in 2018 with a chip on their shoulder and the ultimate goal of winning the final MLB game of the year.

The Brewers didn't lead the division from Day 1 and weren't able to coast into October, but they still wound up with homefield advantage throughout the NL playoffs.

7. They have journeyman catcher who is winning over fans' hearts.

This is a fun one.

The 2016 Cubs had David "Grandpa" Rossy who still elicts deafening cheers whenever he's shown on the giant video board at Wrigley Field. The 2018 Brewers have Kratz, who has become a fan favorite recently and was mic'd up for the final out of the NLDS.

Ross was 39 when he helped lead the Cubs to the 2016 World Series and Chicago was his eighth stop (seventh different team) along his MLB journey. Kratz is 38 and on his ninth stop (seventh different team) along his MLB journey.

In fact, Ross and Kratz are so intertwined, they've already been compared to each other by MLB.com.

But the major difference is Kratz has zero postseason playing experience until a week ago. Will he be able to ride off into the sunset with a championship ring on his finger the way Ross did?

We'll have an answer to that over the next few weeks in the final chapter of the Brewers' 2018 season, though Cubs fans surely wouldn't be too happy to see their division rivals celebrating with a World Series parade just 90 minutes north of Wrigley Field.

Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde interviewed for Rangers' manager opening

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USA TODAY

Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde interviewed for Rangers' manager opening

The Cubs just lost one coach with hitting coach Chili Davis getting fired. Another opening on Joe Maddon's coaching staff could also open up.

According to report from MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, bench coach Brandon Hyde interviewed with the Rangers on Thursday.

Rangers farm director Jayce Tingler was the first candidate the club interviewed, but Hyde and Astros bench coach Joe Espada were also interviewed.

The 45-year-old Hyde has been with the Cubs since 2014. He was a bench coach in 2014 under Rick Renteria before moving to first base coach from 2015-17. This past season he moved back to his original role as bench coach.

He played four seasons in the minors for the White Sox.

The Rangers job opened up when Jeff Banister was fired on Sept. 21. Banister won AL Manager of the Year in 2015 and guided the Rangers to back-to-back playoff appearances in 2015 and 2016, but couldn't get out of the ALDS either year. A 78-84 season in 2017 was followed by an even worse 2018, which led to his firing late this season.