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Game 163: Brewers bounce Cubs out of first and into wild-card game vs. Rockies

The Cubs have done everything the hard way for six months. Why not October, too?

‘‘We’ve been there before,’’ third baseman Kris Bryant said. ‘‘Now we’ll go out there and see what we’re made of.’’

And fast.

After spending the entire second half of the season with the best record in the National League, the Cubs were bounced into a wild-card game when the surging Brewers, who caught them in the standings Saturday, beat them 3-1 in a tiebreaker Monday for the NL Central title.

Baez struck out twice Monday before hitting a single with two out in the ninth. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

‘‘We’ve been fortunate enough to see some crazy s— the last couple of years,’’ outfielder Jason Heyward said. ‘‘Just keep adding to the story.’’

The Cubs suddenly are faced with an elimination game at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday at Wrigley Field against the Rockies, who lost to the Dodgers 5-2 in the NL West tiebreaker Monday.

The Brewers, who have won their last eight games and 23 of their last 30, await the Rockies-Cubs winner in a best-of-five NL Division Series, which opens Thursday at Miller Park.

‘‘It’s no fun,’’ said manager Joe Maddon, whose Cubs are 6-2 in postseason elimination games the last three seasons. ‘‘Of course, we would have preferred the other route. All year, though, we knew how good Milwaukee is. And they were relentless.

‘‘We’ve got to lick our wounds, come back tomorrow, and we’ll get another shot at them.’’

The Cubs had at least a share of first place in the division from July 13 till Monday. They led by five games Sept. 2. They led by 2½ with a week left.

They lost what would have been three days off before the NLDS opener and home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs because of a 4-4 finish, scoring one or zero runs in the four losses.

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‘‘We’re not dead in the water,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘I’ve been involved with wild-card teams that have gone all the way. It happens. You’ve got to throw this away very quickly.

‘‘There’s no lamenting. There’s no crying. None of that.’’

Since Major League Baseball went to the one-game wild-card format in 2012, two wild-card teams have advanced to the World Series. Both were in 2014, when the Giants beat the Royals for the title.

Jake Arrieta dominated the Pirates in a 4-0 victory in 2015, the only other time the Cubs played in a wild-card game. Arrieta won the NL Cy Young Award that season.

Despite a subdued vibe in the clubhouse after the team managed only three hits against Jhoulys Chacin and the Brewers’ power bullpen, the Cubs said there’s reason for confidence Tuesday.

Why?

‘‘Jon Lester,’’ reliever Steve Cishek said with a hard stop as media waited out a moment of awkward silence.

Lester (18-6) — who has been a part of three World Series champions — will start for the Cubs, with 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels joining the bullpen as a long or late option.

‘‘It’s a moment to relish, just with the situation,’’ said Hamels, who stabilized a shaky Cubs rotation after being acquired in a trade in July. ‘‘This is a do-or-die moment. At the same time, we get a second chance.’’

The Rockies will start ace left-hander Kyle Freeland (17-7) on short rest. The Cubs went 3-3 against the Rockies this season, beating Freeland 3-2 at Wrigley Field. The teams haven’t played since May 2.

‘‘We’re going to embrace the challenge and come out ready to go, no matter who we’re playing,’’ said Bryant, whose walk in the second inning accounted for the Cubs’ only baserunner until Anthony Rizzo’s leadoff home run in the fifth. ‘‘We’ve got to win an extra game to get where we ultimately want to be. We’ll take that road.

‘‘I said it in 2016 when we were down 3-1 in the World Series: It could happen. And there’s no doubt in this clubhouse. There’s a lot of good guys here, a lot of veterans, Jon more than anybody.

‘‘We’ll be ready.’’