After a slow start to the 2017 season, the defending World Series Champions have hit their 2016 stride, dominating the National League in the second half of the season. The Chicago Cubs hold the NL’s best record in the second half of the season. At 49-25 since the All-Star break, the Cubs were a full four games clear of their NLDS opponent, the Washington Nationals, during that stretch. With the Dodgers faltering and the inexperience of the Diamondbacks, the Cubs have to be feeling optimistic about a repeat appearance in the Fall Classic.
The Cubs earned their second consecutive Division Title (for the first time since 1906-1908) in 2017, while the core of the 2016 team returned to defend their World Series title. Replacing the departed leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler was a challenge at the onset of the season, Jon Jay has proven to be the catalyst Cubs Manager Joe Maddon and the offense have been looking for. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo had monster years, and Wilson Contreras will look to resume his same breakout role from July/August prior to his hamstring injury.
With new additions Ian Happ, Wade Davis and Jose Quintana playing major roles for the defending champs, the Cubs have been able to restock and reload for the stretch run. With a blistering performance in September that saw the Cubs bury any playoff hopes for rivals St. Louis and Milwaukee, the team seems to be in their 2016 form at the perfect time.
Jon Lester’s most recent performance was dominant, and the early clinch has allowed the Cubs to give Jake Arrieta’s hamstring injury extra time to heal. With Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs most dominant performer in the second half, starting Game 1, Lester’s rebound and the acquisition of Quintana, Arrieta has, even more, time to get healthy and won’t need to pitch until a possible Game 4 of the NLDS. It’s also worth noting that Quintana has never faced the Nationals, giving him an advantage over players that have never seen his stuff.
The Cubs are playing their best baseball right now and are primed to repeat after ending their long drought last year. There’s a lot of excitement ahead. The Professor will get things started on the mound tonight in Washington. Go Cubs Go.