Chicago Cubs must use the final week to get things right


The rest of the 2015 season will be a war.

The culmination of everything the Chicago Cubs have worked toward since March will come to a head. After clinching their first postseason berth since 2008 on Friday, the team must now re-focus and use the final week to get themselves ready for October baseball.

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Anyone with a pulse knows that the Cubs-Pirates series is just a taste of what will come October 7 when the National League Wild Card game will take place. We will watch two of the best teams in the league fight to validate all the wins and effort that they bled for during the year.

Anthony Rizzo cemented himself as the leader of this team, rising to the challenges when his team needed it most. I would expect with a trip to the postseason, Rizzo, along with Starlin Castro, would play a significant role in the clinching game. Rizzo and Castro have been through every step of the rebuild and have dreamt of the moment at-hand.

Newcomers like Kris Bryant, who continues to add to the record books, will cap off his first year in the big leagues with a trip to the postseason.

Jake Arrieta will have a chance to add to his remarkable story Sunday night. If he continues to dominate the way he has, just mail the Cy Young award to Chicago to save us all some time and anticipation.

Despite all the feel-good vibes oozing from the Friendly Confines, once the final battle has been waged, the focus must turn to fixing the leaky parts of this team that could sink them in a short playoff season.

After Arrieta and Lester, there is a whole lot of mystery to the rotation. Manager Joe Maddon has already suggested he may utilize a bullpen start if the series works out that way, given the Cubs are stacked with former starters-turned-relievers.

Travis Wood and Clayton Richard have been a serviceable one-two punch from the left side and recently-aquired Trevor Cahill provides a veteran presence with long-relief capabilities.

I’ll be honest when I say the bullpen scares me. We have become accustomed to seeing Justin Grimm as the first out of the gate. The command issues that have dogged him in recent weeks leaves me shaken. Grimm is struggling to find the zone on a regular basis with his breaking ball and when he does find the zone it seems to be catching too much of the plate.

The energy that Pedro Strop brings is definitely a spark, no doubt about it. What makes him effective is how deceptive his slider is as it falls out of the zone. Regardless of his past success, if Strop can’t get hitters to expand their strike zone, he may not find success in a crucial spot.

The Cubs lineup needs to spend the final week concentrating on good at-bats and making every chance count. In the playoffs, every at-bat will be magnified. Making the appropriate play and ensuring that each out results in something productive will be of the highest importance.

We have reached playoff preparation time and the Cubs couldn’t ask for a better manager to handle the heat. Maddon will keep the team loose and remind them of the things that got them here. This isn’t just an opportunity to get physically right but mentally, as well.

Let’s get ready for battle.

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