By Kevin Powell
ST. LOUIS – For the first time in well over 100 years, the Cubs are headed to the playoffs for the third straight season. The cherry on top? They got to celebrate and pop champagne on their archrivals’ home field after clinching the NL Central.
“To do it on their turf, it feels pretty good,” Kyle Schwarber said after the Cubs, 5-1, clincher.
It was the first time since 1938 the Cubs clinched a title in St. Louis. And the first time they advanced to three straight postseason’s since 1906-08.
“It means a little bit more to Cubs fans that have been around for a long time, and to the players that have been in this organization for a while, because they spent so long getting beat up here,” Ben Zobrist said.
It’s yet another reminder that the road to the top of the NL Central does, and probably will for a while, go through the Chicago Cubs.
“This is what we want,” Kris Bryant said as teammates poured Budweiser over his head. “It’s fun to be the team that people want to beat, and we embrace that…it feels good right now knowing [the Cardinals] always beat up on us before, and now we’re able to get a taste of it, too.”
More important than rubbing a second straight title in the Cardinals face, is that the Cubs can now rest up for the playoffs.
“I know I’m ready for a nice little relaxing, just-be-a-fan, type day,” Kris Bryant said before Wednesday night’s clincher. “I think some guys in here definitely need some rest, and some guys would like to get on the field, too, and get some at-bats.”
Ben Zobrist feels the same way.
“I think we have a couple guys that will need a few days. Rizz and KB, to name a couple. They’ve been our horses all year.”
They’ll get their rest. Up next on the to-do list, is for Joe Maddon to figure out his playoff rotation.
JOHN LACKEY TO RETIRE?
Jon Lester, Anthony Rizzo and other team leaders called the players to a corner of the clubhouse in the middle of the celebration. Lester began to give a speech: “Tonight was probably his last regular season start. Here’s to one hell of a career.”
It has been a hell of a career. And he ended on a high note, with six strong innings of one run ball in the clincher.
“He is a beloved teammate, and you saw that tonight,” Theo Epstein said.
Lackey clearly doesn’t like the media, and can rub fans the wrong way. But he’s been a leader in the clubhouse since he arrived in Chicago. And, yes, he has had a hell of a career.
Now we’ll wait and see how he fits into Maddon’s postseason plans.
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