The Rundown: Cubs End Year with 97 Wins, WC Game Will Be in Pittsburgh, Rangers and Astros Make Playoffs in AL

2015 has been an unbelievable year. It started off with a lot of promise, with the acquisition of new manager Joe Maddon and then the signing of Jon Lester. We knew it would be a step in the right direction. 85-85 wins seemed reasonable to me at the beginning of the season, even if that was a little optimistic.

But this 2015 Cubs squad exploded past those expectations, finishing the year on Sunday with their eighth win in a row and 97th win of the season.

The 97 wins matched the total of the last Cubs team to make the playoffs, a 2008 team that seemed unbeatable heading into the postseason and that finished with the best record in the National League.

But in the end, the 97 wins this year was only good enough for third place in the NL Central. They could not catch the Pittsburgh Pirates, who shut out the Reds yesterday 4-0 and finished a game ahead of the Cubs for the top Wild Card spot.

That means Wednesday night, Jake Arrieta and the Cubs will be taking the field in Pittsburgh, as opposed to Wrigley Field. A bit of a shame, but really only gives the Pirates a very slight advantage. And to be honest, Jake Arrieta might erase that advantage.

But anything can happen in this one-game Wild Card playoff format. It could be close, it could be a blowout. It’s one game, and then the Cubs are either advancing to play the Cardinals or going home for the winter.

This is going to be a stressful couple of days while we wait.

Playoffs are set

Yesterday’s MLB games were all scheduled to start at the same time. This way, teams still with something on the line are forced to play with a full lineup.

It’s a good idea and made for a fun day of baseball. It was pretty cool to follow along with the Reds/Pirates game while the Cubs game was in progress — despite the outcome of that game.

So now, all of the playoff matchups are set. Going into yesterday, the AL West and AL Wild Card was up in the air.

The Rangers beat the Angels, behind a complete game from Cole Hamels, to clinch the AL West title. This win put the Astros in the playoffs as a Wild Card. The Astros lost to the Diamondbacks, so Houston will be facing the Yankees on Tuesday in New York.

It’s pretty funny looking at how the playoffs ended up. I doubt anyone predicted this outcome, especially with teams like the Mets, Cubs, Astros and Blue Jays making it.

I love the MLB playoffs, and I’m just hoping I’ll have more of a rooting interest going past Wednesday.

Other notes

* Dan Haren pitched well again yesterday (6 innings, one run) in the Cubs’ final game of the year. After the game, he announced it will be his last regular season start of his career, as he will be retiring. I would not anticipate him being placed on a playoff roster, but perhaps Joe Maddon will want his veteran presence.

* In one of those “only in baseball” moments, veteran outfielder Ichiro Suzuki pitched yesterday. Pretty awesome:

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