Every day the Chicago Cubs have established some sort of milestone. This is a season like no other in modern-day Cubs history.
Monday night, the Cubs won their 100th game, over their division rival, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Infielder Javier Baez drove in six runs behind four including his second career grand slam. Meanwhile, Kris Bryant hit his 39th home run and is just one shy of league leader Nolan Arenado of Colorado.
And, Kyle Hendricks pitched six shutout innings for his career-high 16th win of the season, lowering his ERA to 1.99. I was visiting Chicago for the weekend and ran into some Cubs fans. My relative, a man who has seen his share of bad teams and good ones, wore his worn Cubs cap to a wedding.
Another relative is amazed at how well the Cubs have played this season. A friend speculated who the Cubs might play in the NDLS.
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And, I ran into a fan in a hotel elevator, sporting a Cubs cap, who informed me that Lester was pitching great during his recent win.
The Cubs are the talk of the town. Chicago sports fans are down about the bad start of the season by the Chicago Bears, but the conversation quickly turns to the fortunes of the Cubbies. Can this be the year that they win it all?
No one knows, but they are entering the stretch, the final week of the season, in great shape. They have home-field advantage through the National League playoffs. They won their 57th game at Wrigley Field, the most in franchise history.
So, the friendly confines, really are the friendly confines this season.
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, manager Joe Maddon summed up the season, “It’s been long and fast and furious,” Maddon said. The Cubs started out electric, had a slump before the All-Star break and came back and played championship-caliber baseball in the second half.
“We’ve had ourselves a nice year,” Maddon noted. “There’s still work left to be done.”
Now, the mental game begins. Maddon will tinker with the lineup, resting starters and playing reserves, to keep players fresh. It seems like the bench could possibly start on other teams, this club is that deep. Baez is talented, it is hard to keep him out of the lineup. Chris Coghlan has proved to be valuable coming off the bench. And, catcher Miguel Montero has had a strong last month or so of the season.
It will likely come down to pitching, as it usually does. Each pitcher has put up impressive numbers. Jake Arrieta is not as sharp as he was last season. But last season, he was just about perfect. Jon Lester has filled the top spot and is pitching great and deserves Cy Young Award consideration.
October is approaching and Cubs fans will be ready.