The Chicago Cubs may have lost on Thursday night, but they still clinched the division after the St. Louis Cardinals also lost to the San Francisco Giants.
It took 145 games into the season, but the Chicago Cubs are division champions. They officially clinched the NL Central on Thursday night, getting some help from a rival’s loss. But let’s be realistic about the situation — the division was wrapped up LONG before September 15.
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The Cubs made some huge moves throughout the year. Starting with offseason trades that involved John Lackey and Jason Heyward, to a huge midseason acquisition of veteran closer Aroldis Chapman. From the first game of the season until the division was wrapped, the Cubs literally owned the baseball world.
They held a double-digit lead over the division for the majority of the season, including a 17-game lead going into Thursday night’s action. After the Brewers took a 5-3 lead late in the game, the Cubs tried to fire back and assemble the necessary late-game heroics. Heyward bounced a line drive off the right field wall to drive in a run and pull to within one, but that was as close as they could get. The easy shot at the division was off the table for the night.
However a loss for them wasn’t the end of the world. They would have to depend on the San Francisco Giants, who knocked off the Cardinals 6-2 to help the Cubs clinch the division. It’s the first division title for Theo Epstein’s club since 2008. And they seem to be riding even more momentum than a year ago, when they shocked the baseball world and slid into the playoffs.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon has lit a fire under this team that hasn’t been seen in a number of years. Maddon worked with the front office to put together a winning combination that has dominated all year long. Life is definitely good for a team that has seen more than its fair share of heartbreak over the last century.
Maddon's reaction, whenever #Cubs clinch NL Central: "This is just the first step. We have much larger baseball fish to fry in our skillet."
With a postseason spot locked in securely, the Cubs can now finish out the remaining couple of weeks and wait to see who they will face in October. The Nationals and Dodgers are likely candidates to win their respective divisions, barring any meltdowns between now and the end of the month. As of now, the Giants and Mets hold the two NL Wild Card spots. But the Cardinals and surprising Marlins are hot on their heels. The Cubs remember the Mets well, as the Mets bounced the North side crew in the NLCS after the Cubs swept them during the regular season.
If the season were to have ended on Thursday night, the Cubs would await the winner of a potentional Mets/Giants Wild Card scenario. The Dodgers and Nationals would battle on the other end of the NLDS, which will begin on Friday, October 7.