09/07/07 8:40 PM ET
Notes: Tiebreakers determined
Cubs would be at home vs. Brewers, on road vs. Cardinals
By Marc Zarefsky / MLB.com
If the Cubs finish tied for first with Milwaukee in the National League Central, the one-game playoff will be played at Wrigley. If the Cardinals and Cubs end the season with the same record atop the Central, the tie-breaker will be in St. Louis.
"Hopefully we won't have to worry about it if we end up winning the division in the necessary allotted games," Chicago's Mark DeRosa said. "It's always nice to know if you got in a one-game playoff with Milwaukee, that you get to play in front of your home fans with the place sold out, especially Wrigley Field. I feel like it's a tough place for a visiting team to come in and deal with.
"I look at it as an advantage, but hopefully it doesn't have to come to that."
The Cubs and Brewers entered Friday's action tied for first in the division, with identical records (71-68) for the first time since Opening Day. The Cardinals are one game back. If the teams finish in a three-way tie, it will come down to the clubs' head-to-head records. The teams with the two worst records will play each other, with the winner taking on the team with the best head-to-head record to become division champion.
Chicago was one of six teams involved in the coin tosses for locations in case of an NL Wild Card tiebreaker. The Cubs hold home-field advantage over the Brewers and Colorado Rockies, but will be forced to travel if they finish tied with the San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers, or Philadelphia Phillies.
There have been six one-game playoffs played where the site was determined by coin flip, and the visitors won four of them. The 1995 Seattle Mariners, managed by current Cubs skipper Lou Piniella, and the 1998 Cubs are the only home teams to win the tiebreaker.
Nothing comes easy: The St. Louis Cardinals are the only team left on the Cubs' schedule with a winning record this season, but that doesn't mean Piniella thinks his team's schedule is easier than anybody else's.
"I don't think there's anything easy down the stretch," Piniella said. "Right now, when you get yourself in a position like we're in, every game is so important. These teams that are playing you, first of all are talented, but more important, they're nice and relaxed. What we need to do is just go out there and play hard, and play as relaxed as we possibly can, and take our chances. It's there for us for the taking. Let's hope we get it done.
"I'm looking forward to these next three weeks myself, this will be fun," Piniella said. "As long as we leave it all on the field, you're not going to hear complaints from me."
Sixteen of the Cubs' 23 remaining games are on the road, where they are 33-32 this season. They are the only team in the Central with a winning road record, but with three teams within one game of each other atop the division, the Cubs cannot concern themselves with where they are playing.
"You'd love to play in front of your home fans every night, there's no doubt about it," DeRosa said. "It's definitely an advantage when you get in a big situation that the fans can put undue pressure on the opposition. It's too close a race, too many things can happen, so you just go out and play."
Getting right against lefties: On Friday, the Pirates started lefty Tom Gorzelanny, who is 1-1 with a 0.60 ERA in two career starts against the Cubs. The Cubs are 15-21 against left-handed pitching this season, but have won three of their last four against southpaws, dating back to Aug. 30.
"We've been doing better against lefties," Piniella said. "We've faced them a little more regularly. I think the more you see them, the more acclimated you get. We're going to see some left-handed pitching down the road, and we're going to have to beat it."
Alone at the top: Alfonso Soriano became the first player in Major League history with four different seasons of seven or more leadoff home runs Thursday when he belted a first-inning shot off the Dodgers' Derek Lowe at Wrigley. Soriano added a three-run shot in the seventh inning.
Soriano is fourth on the all-time leadoff home run list with 39, trailing Rickey Henderson (81), Craig Biggio (53) and Brady Anderson (44). Soriano's seven leadoff homers this season are one behind the Cubs' single-season club record, set in 1976 by Rick Monday.
Quote of the day: "It's not a marathon anymore. I'm not saying we're in a sprint, but I'll tell you what, when you come around that turn, you're going to see the wire pretty soon." -- Piniella, on the remainder of the season.
Extra bases: Piniella was not worried about his bullpen after Ryan Dempster gave up four runs in the ninth Thursday in a 7-4 loss to the Dodgers. "We've done fine. [Thursday] was an exception," Piniella said. "I told Dempster, 'Give me another run like you did, 13 out of 14, I'll be very happy.'" Dempster had converted his last 13 save attempts, dating back to June 11. ... The Cubs are 15-4-3 in series when they win the opener of a series, but are only 4-17-2 after losing the first game. ... Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild stayed in Chicago on Friday for personal reasons. Bullpen coach Lester Strode was scheduled to fill in for Rothschild until he returns to the team.
Minor matters: Mark Holliman gave up two runs on five hits and struck out six over seven innings as Double-A Tennessee beat Huntsville, 6-3, on Thursday in the first game of a best-of-five series. The Smokies scored four runs in the first, highlighted by Issmael Salas' two-run double. Casey McGehee was 2-for-3 with two RBIs, one run scored, and a walk. Rocky Roquet pitched a scoreless ninth for the save.
On deck: Carlos Zambrano will go for his first win since July 29 on Saturday at PNC Park against Pittsburgh's Ian Snell. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CT, and will be broadcast on WGN.
Marc Zarefsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.