The season surely didn't unfold as the Cubs drew it up, but they are once again the NL Central champions nonetheless. With a 5-1 victory in St. Louis on Wednesday night, the Cubs officially eliminated the Brewers from contention and claimed the division crown for the second successive season.
This also marks the first time since 1906-08 that the Cubs have gone to the postseason three consecutive times.
There's more, too. That World Series hangover we sometimes hear about? It's real.
- This marks the first time since the 2011-12 Cardinals that a defending champion has made the postseason.
- This marks the first time since the 2008-09 Phillies a defending champion has won its division.
- This marks the second time since 2002 (Diamondbacks) that a defending champion has won its division.
- Looping in the Indians, this is the first time since 2002 (D-Backs and Yankees) that each defending league champion has won its division.
All that in mind, it's tough to blame the Cubs for a bad first half.
They entered the All-Star break with a 43-45 record, 5½ games back of the Brewers in the Central. The Cubs didn't even send a single position player to the All-Star Game, which made dubious history.
After the rest, though, it was on. The Cubs won six in a row, on the road for good measure, and 14 of their first 17, going from that 5½-game deficit to a 2½-game lead in 2½ weeks. They would once fall into a tie but never again trail in the division.
Through Wednesday, the Cubs sport the best record in the NL since the break at 46-24. They are 16-9 in September.
The Cubs will play their final four regular-season games without meaning now. They are locked into the No. 2 vs. No. 3 NLDS where they'll travel to D.C. to face the Nationals in Game 1 on Friday, Oct. 6. Game 2 will be Oct. 7, Games 3 and 4 (if necessary) would be back in Wrigley Field on Oct. 9-10 with an if-necessary Game 5 coming in Nationals Park on Oct. 12.
For now, though, the Cubs celebrate a pretty outstanding accomplishment, especially given those bullet-points above.