The Chicago Cubs are back in the postseason for the first time since 2008 and looking for their first postseason win since 2003.
Before we look ahead, let's look back at the keys to the Cubs' impressive season, one that ended a streak of six consecutive losing campaigns for the North Siders.
The Cubs have been led by All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who became just the second left-handed hitter in team history to post multiple 30-home run seasons (Billy Williams, 5x). Though Rizzo leads the way, the Cubs have gotten major contributions from rookies this season, often putting four in the starting lineup.
The Cubs lead the major leagues in hits, runs, home runs and RBIs from rookies this season, with over 100 more RBIs from rookies than any other team.
In particular, they are led by rookie of the year candidate Kris Bryant, who set the Cubs franchise record for rookies in both home runs (26) and RBIs (98) and still has nine games left to play.
Arrieta emerges as Cy Young candidate
Jake Arrieta became the majors' first 20-game winner this season, the fourth Cub to do so, and the first 20-game winner for the Cubs since Jon Lieber in 2001. He is the third Cubs pitcher since 1900 to have 20 wins and 200 strikeouts in a season (Ferguson Jenkins 1967-71, Orval Overall 1909).
He has been incredible as of late; Arrieta's 0.86 ERA since the All-Star break is on pace to be the lowest in major league history (min. 12 starts).
A good sign for the Cubs' postseason hopes is that Arrieta has been so good against playoff-caliber teams. Against teams currently .500 or better, Arrieta is 11-2 with a 1.32 ERA this season. That’s the fifth-lowest such ERA in the past 100 years and the lowest since Bob Gibson in 1968 (1.25).
Circle these games
The Cubs had a knack for walk-off wins all season, and their much-hyped rookie hit a big, walk-off home run. On July 29, the Cubs blew a 7-4 ninth-inning lead and trailed the Rockies 8-7 with two outs and a man on base in the bottom of the ninth. Kris Bryant won the game with a walk-off home run against John Axford.
A week earlier on July 21, another rookie, Kyle Schwarber, hit a game-tying, two-run home run in the ninth inning and then followed it up with a game-winning solo shot in the 13th to give the Cubs yet another come-from-behind-win.
Jake Arrieta defined big performances for the team, setting the tone for his 2015 with seven scoreless innings in the team’s second game of the season, against the Cardinals on April 8.
The hallmark of his season was a no-hitter against the Dodgers on Sunday Night Baseball on Aug. 30 in which he struck out 12 and walked only one.