The Chicago Cubs will play in the postseason for the first time since 2018.
The last time the Cubs played in the postseason didn’t go according to plan. Joe Maddon’s club lost in 13 innings in the National League Wild Card Game at Wrigley Field. That departure marked the beginning of the end for Maddon on the North Side – especially after the team missed the postseason altogether last year.
Thanks to a pair of Phillies losses in a twin-bill against the Washington Nationals, David Ross‘ team will play in October. He becomes the seventh first-year Cubs skipper to lead his team to the postseason, despite Chicago not firing on all cylinders for three-quarters of the abbreviated regular season.
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"“Our whole team, right now, obviously we’re not in stride like we want to be offensively, but we’ve grinded,” Anthony Rizzo told MLB.com after the game. “It’s a lot of credit to us for not being in sync for pretty much the whole year and grinding through and getting wins.”"
The team opened the 2020 season scorching hot, going 13-3 in its first 16 games. But from there, it’s been a constant battle to grind out wins. The offense has underperformed all year (ranking 22nd in OPS) – with key guys like Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber all struggling.
Returning to the postseason has to feel good for a group that’s very much aware this might be their ‘Last Dance’ together. But this is just the first step. The NL Central is up for grabs, with Chicago clinging to a 3 1/2-game edge heading into Wednesday’s matchup against Pittsburgh.
In theory, the Cubs will take care of business against the Pirates the next two days. That alone would go a long way toward the team winning its first division crown since 2017. If they struggle, they risk heading into a final three-game weekend series against the crosstown rival White Sox with all the chips on the table.
"“It doesn’t matter who gets it done in October. It doesn’t matter how it gets done,” Rizzo said. “It’s just a matter of staying in the moment, staying with your teammates and being together.”"
Of course, a division crown means you get to host the best-of-three first-round Wild Card series. On the year, Chicago is 19-14 at the Friendly Confines this year – and that would be the only home field advantage in the postseason as MLB plans to institute a postseason bubble past the first round.
That means, should they advance past the Wild Card round, the Cubs will play at either Minute Maid Park in Houston or Globe Life Field in Arlington in the Division Series. All NLCS and World Series games will take place in Arlington to reduce the team’s risk of COVID-19 exposure.
Knowing you’re returning to the postseason is nice. But there’s a lot at stake here in the final days of the regular season. Now’s the time for Chicago to come together and bring home another NL Central title and put the finishing touch on this strange 60-game sprint of a season.