Cubs enter this postseason with far more experience than 2015

SHARE Cubs enter this postseason with far more experience than 2015

Chicago Cubs players gather around manager manager Joe Maddon, on the mound, during baseball practice at Wrigley Field, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016, in Chicago. The Cubs host the winner of Wednesday’s National League wild-card game between the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants on Friday, in Game 1 of the National League Division Series . (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato) ORG XMIT: ILKS102

Last year’s Cubs playoff roster had only a handful of players with postseason experience.

This time, only a handful won’t have it.

They’ll include (if they make the roster to be announced Friday) outfielders Matt Szczur and Albert Almora, catcher Willson Contreras and pitchers Mike Montgomery and Carl Edwards Jr.

“I have that experience in my back pocket now,’’ said shortstop Addison Russell, one of the many young Cubs who was a newcomer to October baseball last season.

The additions of John Lackey, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist added to the postseason credentials on the team. Pitcher Joe Smith also has pitched in October.

Getting hot, even if it’s cold

Cubs catcher Miguel Montero, playing in his fourth postseason, enters the National League Division Series with a hot bat.

Being hot at the right time is what October can be about, as he well knows.

“A playoff is who gets hot at the right time,’’ he said. “Even if you have a better team by the numbers, it’s who gets hot.

“The Mets were pretty hot at the right time last year and did a good job against us [in sweeping the NL Championship Series].Hopefully, we keep the momentum going that we have and don’t take anything for granted.’’

October can bring drastic changes in weather, too, but Montero said it shouldn’t affect the Cubs.

“We know what to expect with the weather,’’ Montero said. ‘‘It will be the same for both teams.’’

Would cool evenings make for more of a pitchers’ game?

“It might,’’ he said. “But that’s always the case. If you have pitching and play defense, you have a good chance to win.’’

Broadcast bonus

Most of the NL Division Series will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1, including the opener Friday at Wrigley Field.

MLB Network, a premium channel for many providers, will broadcast Game 2 at 7 p.m. Saturday. But the network is saying it will be providing a “free preview,’’ so most fans will get a chance to watch the game.

Changing playoff sides

Heyward was with the Cardinals last season and played against the Cubs in the NLDS.

“I learned a lot about [the Cubs] last year, that they were a hungry team,’’ Heyward said. ‘‘And being here this year, you learn a lot from within.’’

Heyward said the team learned through the year how to handle situations, and that should help when the challenges of playoff baseball arise.

“It was important all season, not letting situations get out of hand,’’ Heyward said. ‘‘We were getting no-hit through seven or eight innings [in one game] and came back to win. We never gave in, and that was the biggest thing.

“It’s the best team I’ve been around as far as guys picking each other up.’’

Championships galore

Szczur, a Villanova alum, is proud of his alma mater and its 2016 NCAA men’s basketball championship.

Does he think about the possibility of striking it rich twice this season with a World Series title?

“Of course,’’ he said with a smile. “I always think about it.’’

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