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Cubs Clinch 2020 MLB Playoff Berth After Phillies, Reds Losses

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2020

Chicago Cubs' Cameron Maybin, third from left, smiles after walking with the bases loaded to drive in the winning run against the Cleveland Indians in a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, in Chicago. (AP Photo/David Banks)
David Banks/Associated Press

The Chicago Cubs are going to the playoffs for the fifth time in six years.

The Cubs clinched their spot in the expanded postseason Tuesday when the Philadelphia Phillies lost to the Washington Nationals and the Cincinnati Reds lost to the Milwaukee Brewers. They will now look to return to the form they displayed in the early portion of their recent run of success when they won the World Series in 2016 and reached the National League Championship Series in 2015 and 2017.

Chicago Cubs @Cubs

The #Cubs have officially clinched a spot in the postseason! #FlyTheW https://t.co/O3q0lmr7Cm

By contrast, Chicago lost in the National League Wild Card Game in 2018 and missed the playoffs entirely in 2019.

The North Siders may be better equipped to make a deep run this year than the past couple of seasons based on their depth. After all, they clinched a playoff spot without much trouble in a coronavirus pandemic-shortened season even when Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber performed well below expectations.

Instead, it was supposed role players such as Ian Happ, Jason Heyward and even Jason Kipnis who carried the offense for extended stretches.

A glass-half-full outlook would suggest reaching the playoffs without the typical contributions from the usual stars means the Cubs could be in store for good things as they battle for a championship. Under such an assumption, it could be just a matter of time before the core breaks out.

Chicago is also a threat to win any playoff series because of its one-two punch atop the rotation.

Yu Darvish has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this year and is a contender for the National League Cy Young with a 2.22 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 88 strikeouts in 69 innings. Kyle Hendricks is a veteran leader who can pitch before or after Darvish in a series and look to put the Cubs ahead right out of the gates.

No moment should be too big for Hendricks, either, given he started Game 7 of the 2016 World Series and won Game 6 of the 2016 NLCS as the Cubs snapped their infamous championship curse.

There could be additional motivation at play for Chicago as well considering Rizzo told reporters in August, "I'm not going to shy away from it, this could be our last year together. I think we all know that, especially with the state of the game. ... This could be our last run with all of our core guys."

According to Spotrac, Rizzo, Bryant, Baez, Jon Lester and Schwarber are all scheduled for free agency after 2021.

Bryant was also included in trade talks prior to the season, and the front office has insisted it doesn't have the money to add many significant pieces even though Forbes listed the Cubs as the fourth-most valuable team in Major League Baseball in April.

The core that helped bring Chicago fans a long-awaited championship in 2016 may have one more run at a title after clinching its spot in the 2020 playoffs.

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