CHICAGO (AP) — The cheering slowly increased as the crowd of 40,971 recognized the significance of the Chicago Cubs flag on the videoboard at Wrigley Field. The banner on top of the pole for the NL Central standings rippled in the breeze as the cheering turned into an appreciative roar.
The regular season is over. Next up for Chicago is the Washington Nationals.
Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant each had a light day of work as the Cubs prepared for the playoffs by playing much of their roster during a 3-1 loss to Deck McGuire and the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday.
Most of Chicago’s starting lineup was gone by the fifth inning. Rizzo flied out leading off the first, and then was replaced in the field by Taylor Davis. Bryant and shortstop Addison Russell were pulled after the NL Central champions batted in the fourth.
Chicago (92-70) is trying to become the first team to repeat as World Series champions since the New York Yankees won three in a row from 1998-2000. It will open the NL Division Series at the Nationals on Friday.
“They’re a deep team. So are we, so it’ll be a fun series,” Rizzo said.
McGuire (1-1) pitched five sparkling innings for his first major league win in his second big league start. The right-hander also picked up his first RBI when he drove in Phillip Ervin with a grounder in the fifth.
“It’s been a really long journey,” he said. “I pitched well, they played unbelievable defense behind me and Tucker (Barnhart) did a great job behind the plate.”
Raisel Iglesias allowed Albert Almora Jr.’s one-out homer in the ninth before finishing for his 28th save in 30 chances.
Cincinnati finished last in the NL Central for the third straight season. It also went 68-94 last year.
“A ton of really good things here, and that’s what gets us excited moving forward,” manager Bryan Price said. “Now we have to get our pitching in a position where we move from the bottom to more towards the top.”
Chicago, a runaway winner in the NL Central last season with a 103-58 record, has some decisions to make about its rotation against the Nationals, but appears to be in good shape heading into the playoffs. The Cubs closed the season with 15 wins in 19 games.
Mike Montgomery pitched three scoreless innings for Chicago before John Lackey (12-12) allowed Adam Duvall’s run-scoring double in the fourth in his first relief appearance since the 2013 World Series with Boston. The right-hander could work out of the bullpen in this year’s playoffs.
“I mean he gave up a run, whatever it was, but I thought he had a really good slider coming out of the pen and his velocity was normal,” manager Joe Maddon said. “So I thought he looked actually pretty good.”
Scooter Gennett added an RBI single in the sixth for Cincinnati. Joey Votto doubled twice and led the majors by reaching base 321 times this year, breaking his own team record set in 2015.
“I think as a complete package, this was the best year of my career,” said Votto, who won the NL MVP award in 2010.
Cincinnati center fielder Billy Hamilton went 0 for 4 with a walk and lost out to Miami’s Dee Gordon in the race for most steals in the majors. Hamilton had 59 coming into the day, one shy of Gordon’s total.
The Reds tried to get Hamilton another steal in the ninth, but Jesse Winker was thrown out at third on the front half of a double-steal attempt, ending the inning.
TAKE A BOW
The Cubs paid tribute to retiring Reds right-hander Bronson Arroyo with a scoreboard message before the start of the fourth inning. The 40-year-old Arroyo waved to the cheering crowd when he was shown on the videoboard.
Kyle Hendricks or Jon Lester is likely to get the ball for Chicago in Game 1 of the playoffs. The Cubs dropped four of seven games against the Nationals this season.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
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