Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Cubs Win! Cubs Win! was a frequent catchphrase in Chicago.
Something special was in the water in the north side of Chicago, as the Cubs took control of the division early and held off late challenges from the Cardinals and Reds to complete an out of the blue 94-68 campaign that gave the Cubbies an unexpected trip to the postseason.
Infield corners Carlos Pena (35 HR, 89 RBIs) and Aramis Ramirez (.309-22-98) anchored the offensive attack, while closer Carlos Marmol saved 39 games and a revived Carlos Zambrano won 16 games, including a pair in the final week that helped stave off what could have been a monumental collapse.
Cardinals (90-72) fans watched 1B Albert Pujols flirt with a triple crown, finishing with a .335-33-118 line that was helped by Colby Rasmus' All-Star season (.275-24-94). Injuries to Adam Wainright and Chris Carpenter were offset by Kyle Loshe's 10-1, 1.90 mark before injuries sidelined him in August, but Kyle McClellan emerged as the ace of the staff (14-9, 3.36).
Joey Votto put up MVP-caliber stats (.312-37-106) as the Reds (90-72) made a late run that ran out of gas in the final week. A shaky bullpen led to an overhaul that helped spark Cincinnati's second half spurt as Nick Masset replaced Francisco Cordero as closer and finished with 33 saves.
Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and Rickie Weeks combined for 93 homers as the Brewers (84-78) faded with a 12-13 September. Ace Yovani Gallardo won 18 games, but newly acquired Zach Greinke made just 26 starts, while John Axford led the NL with 43 saves.
The Pirates (70-92) and Astros rounded out the division, with Houston's 61-101 mark made them the last of the current MLB franchises to lose 100 games in a season.