What happened the last time that the Cubs played in Game 163?

What happened the last time that the Cubs played in Game 163?

The NL Central title will be on the line Monday when the Cubs and Brewers face off in a Game 163 at Wrigley Field.

Monday's game is not the first Game 163 in MLB history, of course, though it is first such game for the Cubs in quite some time.

In fact, the last time the Cubs played in a Game 163 was 1998, the season Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire dueled it out for the MLB home run single-season record (which McGwire won, 70 home runs to Sosa's 66).

Yeah, it's been a while.

The Cubs and Giants met at Wrigley Field for Game 163 on Monday, Sept. 28, 1998. The two teams entered the game 89-73, tied for the lone NL Wild Card Spot (MLB did not add a second Wild Card postseason position until the 2012 season).

Steve Trachsel started for the Cubs, facing off against Mark Gardner of the Giants. Trachsel pitched an odd game in which he allowed just one hit in 6 1/3 innings, though he walked six batters (he also struck out six).

Gardner had less success than Trachsel, allowing four runs (all earned) in 5 1/3 innings. Gardner pitched four shutout innings before surrendering a two-run blast to third baseman Gary Gaetti in the fifth.

Gardner exited the game in the sixth after allowing singles to Lance Johnson and Sammy Sosa. Giants pitcher Rich Rodriguez walked Mark Grace to load the bases, and Matt Mieske drove in Johnson and Sosa to give the Cubs a 4-0 lead.

San Francisco actually loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh inning, giving slugger Barry Bonds a chance to tie the game. Bonds, who hit 37 home runs in 1998, grounded out to first base to end the threat, however.

Sosa singled in the eighth inning and eventually came around to score on a wild pitch. The Cubs entered the ninth inning with a comfortable 5-0 lead, though the Giants did not go quietly.

After the Giants scored their first run of the game, Bonds again had a bases loaded opportunity, this time with none out. 

Fortunately for the Cubs, Bonds "only" hit a sacrifice fly. The Giants added a third run on a ground ball force out, though that was all, as the Cubs held on for a 5-3 victory to clinch the last playoff berth.

Long story short, that game in 1998 was a hard-fought and tight game. Bonds had several chances in big moments to get the Giants back in the game, though he ultimately came up short.

It would not come as a surprise if Monday's game at Wrigley Field is similar, 20 years later.

Joe Maddon already has a new job, signs on with Angels

Joe Maddon already has a new job, signs on with Angels

Barring a Cubs-Angels World Series, the Wrigley Field faithful might not have much of an opportunity to welcome Joe Maddon back to The Friendly Confines.

It didn't take long for Maddon to find a job, as he reportedly agreed this week to join the Los Angeles Angels as their next manager. This was a widely speculated move after the Angels let go of manager Brad Ausmus just one year into a three-year contract immediately after the Cubs announced they were parting ways with Maddon. 

According to ESPN's Jesse Rogers, Maddon's deal will likely be for three years at $4-5 million a season:

Maddon came up as a coach in the Angels system, referencing his three decades there often during the course of his five years in Chicago.

Once the Cubs got rid of Maddon, it was obvious he would have plenty of suitors, as just about any team with a managerial vacancy would be interested in the future Hall of Famer. But instead of going to an up-and-coming team like the Padres or a squad on the cusp of the playoffs like the Phillies, Maddon opted to return to his baseball home.

That means he will most likely not face off against the Cubs over the next couple of seasons, as the Cubs hosted the Angels in 2019 and are not slated to play each other again until 2021 (which will take place in L.A.). Barring the aforementioned World Series meeting, Maddon and the Cubs likely won’t cross paths in Chicago for the next few seasons.

It also means Maddon will get to team up with the best player in the game (Mike Trout) and an exciting young two-way star (Shohei Ohtani) while inheriting a roster that otherwise has some major flaws. The Angels have struggled to build up a roster around Trout over his nine seasons, making the playoffs just once in 2014 and getting bounced from the ALDS by the Kansas City Royals that season.

But the Angels do have some intriguing prospects coming up the system — led by outfielder Jo Adell — and Maddon has experience taking a team and elevating them to contender status immediately. He also carries immediate clout that will help draw free agents to L.A., as he did in Chicago with Jon Lester.

Maddon will be reunited with former Cubs fan favorite Tommy La Stella, who was starring for the Angels earlier this season before a leg injury sent him to the shelf for several months.

In many ways, this is an ideal fit for Maddon, who will get to stay in a big market with a team willing to spend and a roster that at least has some incredible talent from Day 1. It would obviously be a difficult task to try to overtake the juggernaut Houston Astros in the AL West, but he accomplished a similar feat in Chicago when he led the Cubs past the Cardinals in Year 1 (and kept the Cards out of the playoffs for the next three years until their return to October baseball this fall).

The Cubs, meanwhile, have not yet announced a new manager, though David Ross still looms as the favorite to take over Maddon's former gig. Theo Epstein's front office interviewed Mark Loretta, Will Venable, Joe Girardi and Ross earlier this month and also planned to talk to Joe Espada and Gabe Kapler this week.

Epstein said the Cubs are "full speed ahead" to hire a new manager, so expect them to move quickly to finalize Maddon's heir.

Bold predictions for the Cubs' 2019-20 offseason


Bold predictions for the Cubs' 2019-20 offseason

The Cubs are just a couple of weeks away from a pivotal offseason that could see a lot of change coming to Chicago's North Side.

Then again, we thought the same thing a year ago and it turned out Theo Epstein's biggest move last winter was signing Daniel Descalso to a two-year deal.

But after missing the playoffs in 2019, the Cubs are now at a crossroads as an organization. 

The NBC Sports Chicago crew previewed the offseason on the latest CubsTalk Podcast with some bold predictions for the winter.

Listen here and check out the fearless calls below:

(Note: Rationale and more context on each bold prediction in the podcast.)

David Kaplan

1. Cubs are going to take a page out of the Yankees' book and retool on the fly rather than go all-in to contend in 2020.
2. Jose Quintana has thrown his last pitch as a Cub.
3. This will be the second-to-last offseason for Theo Epstein as the Cubs president of baseball operations.

Kelly Crull 

1. Cubs re-sign Nick Castellanos and trade away Kyle Schwarber.
2. Tyler Chatwood will be in the 2020 rotation.
3. John Lackey will be named quality assurance coach on David Ross's coaching staff. (Kidding, but only kind of...)

Tony Andracki

1. Before the Cubs play a Spring Training game, Javy Baez will sign an extension that will keep him in Chicago through at least 2023.
2. Willson Contreras will be traded this winter and the Cubs will get some much-needed pitching help in return.
3. Cubs sign Howie Kendrick this winter as the professional bat and lefty-masher they craved in 2019.
4. Ben Zobrist will return on a one-year deal and finish his playing career in a Cubs uniform.
5. David Bote, Albert Almora Jr. and Addison Russell will all be traded or non-tendered this winter as the Cubs remake their bench/depth.

Jeff Nelson

1. Willson Contreras will sign a contract extension.
2. Ben Zobrist will return as a player/coach.
3. Jose Quintana will be traded for minor league depth.
4. Terrance Gore will be signed to be the 26th man on the roster under the new rules.