For the second consecutive season, the Cubs are in the NLCS. And although we don’t even know their opponent, it’s becoming obvious that this trip to MLB’s final four will have a far happier ending than the previous four (2015, 2003, 1989, 1984) – and a much happier ending than their previous seven trips to the World Series. Here are 10 reasons why these Cubs are destined to end their miserable championship drought:
They just aced a huge test
If there’s anyone in the Cubs’ clubhouse who puts any kind of credence in curses, it’s comforting to know that the team just stared destiny in the face and sent it packing. San Francisco’s “even-year” magic was no match for Chicago’s superior talent, and not even postseason deity Madison Bumgarner could contain their bats. If anything, destiny appears to be on the Cubs’ side after disposing of the closest thing MLB has to a dynasty.
They persevered under pressure
Down by three runs on the road in the ninth inning and with visions of a potentially catastrophic Game 5 hanging over their heads, the Cubs … rallied for four runs and slammed the door. Instead of a loss that created doubt, Chicago got a win that inspired confidence. Now that they’ve done it once, they believe they can do it again.
Javier Baez is ridiculously talented
When his isn’t hitting dramatic game-winning homers, he is applying majestic tags. And when he isn’t doing that, he’s seamlessly pulling off other defensive magic tricks. All with just the right amount of swag to spark his teammates and drive the opposition nuts. Baez is the breakout star of this postseason.
The rotation is rested and aligned
The LDS going four games allowed each Chicago starter to get some action, while also ensuring all four are set up to take their normal turns again in the LCS. It also gives potential Game 1 starter Kyle Hendricks more time to treat that sore forearm.
Jake Arrieta is Jake Arrieta again
Chicago got everything it hoped for (six innings of two-run ball with just one walk) and then some (a three-run homer) from the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner in Game 3. It was only one start, but it certainly was encouraging.
Anthony Rizzo has awakened
Entering Game 4 in a miserable 0-for-13 slump, Rizzo walked in his first at-bat, singled in his second and walked (and scored) again in the ninth. This loaded offense doesn’t need Rizzo to go 2-for-5 with a three-run homer every night, but such production is much more possible now that he can relax and stop pressing.
They're crazy deep and versatile
Albert Almora is making diving catches as a defensive replacement, Baez is bouncing between infield positions, Jorge Soler is starting in place of Jason Heyward, and third-string catcher Willson Contreras is getting game-tying pinch hits and then playing the outfield. Literally everyone is contributing.
David Ross has rediscovered the fountain of youth
Just as he did during the Red Sox’s World Series run in 2013, Ross is excelling in an expanded postseason role. Throwing out baserunners, homering to get Chicago on the board, pinch-hitting late in games … Ross suddenly has gone from 39 to 29.
The bullpen is superb
The Giants were able to get to Aroldis Chapman in Game 3, but that wasn’t the case in Game 4 when the Cuban Missile struck out the side on 13 pitches. Cubs relievers tossed 5 1/3 scoreless innings in Game 2 and kept the Giants off the board for the final 4 2/3 innings in Game 4.
Joe Maddon is a maniacal mastermind
From the conventional (the handling of the bullpen) to the unconventional (pinch-hitting for Addison Russell in Game 4, the late-game defensive switches), Maddon knows how to maximize every situation and get the most from every player on his roster.