Powell at the Park: Cubs clinching the division is just the first step

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks (28) throws against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016, in Chicago.  (AP Photo/David Banks)

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks (28) throws against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/David Banks)

By Kevin Powell

The 2016 Cubs have been laser focused since spring training. Clinching the NL Central tonight, or tomorrow or sometime this weekend will feel nice, and Champagne will be spilled. But this team knows they’re capable of something much, much bigger.

Other than a horrific knee injury to slugger Kyle Schwarber, this team has stayed remarkably healthy. John Lackey’s recent DL stint seemed more of a precaution than an actual injury scare. Likewise for reliever Hector Rondon, who looks refreshed after nearly three weeks of rest. He’ll be relied on in October. Dominating this season, and building a cushion in the division allowed the Cubs to freshen up their starters for October—just a couple weeks away. The only prominent player still missing is reliever Pedro Strop, as he works his way back from a knee injury. The Schwarber injury was devastating, but the Cubs have had an incredible run of luck in the health department. The pieces are in place for a deep postseason run.

It’s amazing to think the conversation the past few weeks has been “Who will start game one of the postseason?” not “Will the Cubs even make the postseason?” This is what the Cubs have become. A powerhouse in baseball. A staple in the postseason. There were no doubts on Opening Day if the Cubs would make the playoffs. This club has too much talent and too much depth. Even though the Cubs are in search of their first division crown in eight years, the standard has become championships and postseason berths. The next step is to start bringing World Series titles to the North Side.

Manager Joe Maddon wouldn’t exactly say the season is a disappointment if they don’t win the World Series. But anyone that’s even kept a casual eye on this team knows that the 2016 campaign will be considered a failure if there’s no ticker tape parade this fall.

*Today’s pitching matchup:

MIL: Nelson (7-14 , 4.42 ERA)
CHC: Montgomery (4-5 , 2.74 ERA)
–Mike Montgomery gets the start after Jon Lester (who is in line to start game one of the NLDS) was bumped up a day. The Brewers send Jimmy Nelson to the hill.

**Here’s a look at the postseason schedule for both leagues:

 

*** Follow WGN Radio and wgnradio.com for Cubs coverage throughout the day.

Former Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster joined Steve Cochran and Dave Eanet in studio this morning to talk about tonight’s potential clincher.

–Former Cubs star Kerry Wood joins The Roe Conn Show w/ Anna Davlantes and myself this afternoon at 4:40p

–Mark Carman will join Justin Kaufmann on The Download (7-11p). Sam Panayotovich and myself will be at Wrigley giving live updates during and after the game.

Kevin Powell covers Chicago baseball  for WGN Radio and anchors sports on The Roe Conn Show with Anna Davlantes, M-F/3-7p. Follow on twitter @kpowell720