By: Alex Patt
The Chicago Cubs were the defending World Champions for the first time since 1909 this past season, and it was another memorable year overall. The team went 92-70, won the NL Central and went to the postseason for the third straight year. The ultimate goal was to repeat as champions, and unfortunately they fell a bit short. The dream ended on October 18th when the Cubs fell to the Dodgers in game 5 of the NLCS at Wrigley Field by a score of 11-1. They may not have gone all the way but there were still some great memories.
The team opened their season in St. Louis and Milwaukee before coming home to Wrigley Field to raise the banners and be presented with the 1,908 carrot rings. After that opening series there was a lot of frustration in the second half. The Cubs were essentially the same team as the 2016 champion one minus Dexter Fowler and David Ross and they did not perform to expectations. At the end of the first half the Cubs were 5.5 of first place Milwaukee and were 43-45. The starting pitching as a whole had struggled with 4.66 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. The offense was 20th in baseball in run scoring and the defense that was historically good in 2016 was among the league leaders in errors. Concern was building about their postseason chances.
Only Wade Davis went to the All Star game while the likes of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Ben Zobrist were able to rest up for a few days. Theo Epstein and White Sox GM Rick Hahn made the deal to send Jose Quintana to the North Side during the break to bolster the rotation. From that point, the Cubs surge began.
The Cubs went 49-25 in the second half with 423 runs scored, 3.36 starters ERA and a +127 run differential. Division opponents St. Louis and Milwaukee were the only things standing in the Cubs way in the final weeks of September and they won six of eight in back-to-back road series from them. The Cubs clinched the NL Central on September 28th (same date in 2003) at Busch Stadium in St. Louis by a score of 5-1. Many Cubs fans made the trip to watch their second-straight division title as a date with the Nationals was on in the NLDS.