Here we are then. Each team has played 162 games of regular season baseball but it comes down to this, a one-game, winner-takes-all showdown.
And no, it’s not the wildcard game. Even after this we have another pair of one-game, winner-takes-all showdowns. Isn’t that just fantastic?
Never before have there been two Game 163s. The Dodgers host the Rockies and the Brewers head to Wrigley Field to face the Cub team that they chased down in the final weeks of the season.
The game at Wrigley Field starts just after 6pm UK time with attention turning to Dodger Stadium – assuming it’s all finished in the windy city – at 9:09pm BST.
The Brewers waited until Monday afternoon to name Jhoulys Chacin as their starter. Walker Buehler will take the mound for the Dodgers, German Marquez will pitch for the Rockies and Jose Quintana will be tasked with getting the first few outs for the Cubs.
Dodgers and Rockies – Game 163
Cubs and Brewers – Game 163
Baseball doesn't get much better than this ? pic.twitter.com/16k61vVKzF
— Franchise Sports ???? (@FranchiseSprts) September 30, 2018
It will be fascinating to see how long a leash each manager gives their starters. The season is not over with defeat, but obviously each team would rather avoid a wildcard game. Will we see a team protect their best relievers ahead of a lengthy playoff run? Probably not. And maybe, just maybe, they will regret that later this month (although I doubt we are going to see Kenley Jansen throw 60 pitches or anything stupid).
A lot will be made of the starting pitching matchups in the build-up. Buehler has dominated Colorado at Dodger Stadium this year, for instance, but unless a starter goes full Game Seven Yu Darvish or deals like Madison Bumgarner in the 2016 National League wildcard game, this is going to be about bullpens.
That’s not to forget the line-ups, though. Some of the best hitters on the planet are in action on tonight, and the probable National League MVP, Christian Yelich, has the chance to put a cherry on top of his remarkable recent hot streak with a triple crown. Mix in some elite relievers, like Milwaukee’s Josh Hader, and some stellar defence from Lorenzo Cain, Nolan Arenado and a plethora of others, and this has the feel of a back-to-back All-Star games. The one crucial difference, though, is that this means something.
Baseball, especially for British fans, does not get much better than this. It’s an historic day for the sport, and one that those of us on this side of the Atlantic can enjoy without staying up through the night.
Hopefully we get two close, tense games. This is the most dramatic day of the season. There is no better way to prepare for playoff baseball.