They had to wait a few extra hours, but the Cubs are in the playoffs.
By virtue of the San Francisco Giants’ 5-4 loss late Friday to the Oakland Athletics, the Cubs clinched their first playoff berth since 2008. They had a chance to do it earlier Friday but lost 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Pirates and had to depend on the A’s beating their Bay Area rivals.
The Cubs likely will be in the wild-card game, which figures to be in Pittsburgh. However, the Pirates have a chance to catch the Cardinals and win the division, dropping the Cards into the wild-card game. They’ll meet three times next week.
Regardless, it’s a playoff berth for a young team that was expected to improve but maybe not contend like it has. It’s something manager Joe Maddon talked about when he was hired, something he stressed Friday he believed would happen even back then.
“I would say it every year anyway,” Maddon said. “I was sitting over there across the street and I think you guys know me by now to know that I really believed it. I don’t understand how you approach this season [not].”
There also has been a sense of joy around the Cubs. Though that might give way to high expectations and pressure next year, 2015 has been mostly a breeze for a team perhaps a year ahead of schedule.
“Individually, I kind of wait until the season’s over to kind of look at how I’ve done. As a team I can’t say enough about what we’ve done so far and where we’ve come,” Kris Bryant said early Friday. “I think we’ve put it all together here, but I think the main thing is we’re so close as a team. We’re having a whole lot of fun that it allows us to go out there and win and believe in each other. The season has been, I think everybody else in this clubhouse would say that the season has been a really good one for us.”
It has, though the Cubs weren’t able to celebrate the clinching with fans when it happened. And because of the Giants’ late start combined with the early 12:05 p.m. start Saturday, it was likely hard for the Cubs to watch the finish.
Jon Lester said there was “no chance” he’d watch.
“We’ll show up tomorrow and hopefully celebrate tomorrow and have a good time and let these guys that have never experienced this really enjoy it and hopefully they don’t hold anything back,” Lester said after the game Friday. “I know we’ve got another week or so to go and a lot of things can happen but not too many guys get the opportunity to play in the postseason and I hope guys really soak it in.”