Cubs hold off Pirates to sweep series (1:06)
Russell: 'There's no better feeling' than making a great play (1:27)
MLB Photos via Getty Images, Toronto Star via Getty Images
2hDavid Schoenfield

Grading all of the MLB playoff races

Which playoff races are the best? With teams battling for division leads and wild-card spots, there should be plenty of excitement down the stretch.

Jesse Rogers ESPN Staff Writer 

The Cubs improved to 12-3 against the Pirates this season with a 6-5 win on Wednesday night as they now have a 15 game lead in the division entering September. Their magic number to clinch is just 16.

Jesse Rogers ESPN Staff Writer 

After a couple of rough outings Cubs starter Jason Hammel rebounded with a nice effort on Wednesday holding the Pirates to one run over six innings. His biggest moment came in striking out Andrew McCutchen with the bases loaded in the fifth inning to end a threat. Hammel is in a dogfight to start a playoff game though there's plenty of time left before decisions have to be made. Joe Maddon said as much before the game.

Russell lays out making spectacular catch (0:20)

Jesse Rogers ESPN Staff Writer 

Further making his case for league MVP Kris Bryant is 2 for 2 with a HR and 2 runs scored giving him 111 runs scored on the season. He's also made 3 good def plays in the field including a diving catch of a line drive to save a run. The Cubs lead the Pirates 2-0 in the 5th.

Jesse Rogers ESPN Staff Writer 

Kris Bryant knocked in his 90th run with his 36th home run on Wednesday, the most by a Cub since Aramis Ramirez (38) in 2006. It's also the second straight year Bryant has reached 90 runs driven in.

Bryant's 36th HR of season gives Cubs early lead (0:25)
Here's why Week 1 matters (1:32)

Marly Rivera ESPN Writer 

Willson Contreras is ready for some Wednesday Night Baseball!

Lineup: Cubs (84-47) vs. Pirates (67-63)

  • 1. Dexter Fowler, CF (S)
  • 2. Kris Bryant, 3B (R)
  • 3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B (L)
  • 4. Jorge Soler, LF (R)
  • 5. Jason Heyward, RF (L)
  • 6. Addison Russell, SS (R)
  • 7. Tommy La Stella, 2B (L)
  • 8. Willson Contreras, C (R)
  • 9. Jason Hammel, RHP
  • Daily lineups

Jesse Rogers ESPN Staff Writer 

Joe Maddon said Tommy La Stella addressed the team before Wed game and seemed to be accepting by his friends/teammates. Maddon called it the concept of a team working at its best.

Jesse Rogers ESPN Staff Writer 

Cubs OF Matt Szczur on the return of Tommy La Stella: "It's like he never left."


Can Texas take down Notre Dame?

Our Phil Steele sees Texas as his most improved team. ND enters the game as a four-point favorite, but with QB issues, Steele thinks the game will have a tight result. Week 1 CFB best bets (Insider)

Jesse Rogers ESPN Staff Writer 

The Cubs are sending top prospects Eloy Jimenez and Ian Happ to the Az fall league, it was announced on Wednesday. Also playing for the Mesa Solar Sox will be pitchers James Farris, Ryan McNeil, Stephen Perakslis and Duane Underwood Jr. Catcher Victor Caratini will join Cubs prospects there as well. The league plays games in October and November.

Jon Durr/Getty Images

Cubs with good odds to win it all?

In the aftermath of the trade deadline, the Cubs were seen as a virtual lock to win the NL Central. Now, those odds are even better. Should their fans start thinking World Series? Updated ZiPS playoff odds (Insider)

Tigers walk off to sweep White Sox (0:39)

Jesse Rogers ESPN Staff Writer 

Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella is in the starting lineup on Wednesday against the Pirates as the team called him up from Triple-A Iowa several weeks after he failed to report to the minors. La Stella said he was contemplating his future in baseball but eventually returned to the organization. He's batting seventh and playing second base as pitcher Spencer Patton was sent down for a day. Rosters expand on Thursday.