Cubs’ Maddon stoked to see Pirates again

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Dexter Fowler had three hits, including this solo homer, in the wild-card game. | Getty Images

It was one game, but it was “Game 7’’ for the Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

On Oct. 7, 2015, the Cubs beat the Pirates 4-0 behind Jake Arrieta’s complete game, moving on to the National League Division Series and triggering ambitions of bigger things this year.

“To be able to win that game and then stretch it through the Cardinals, getting that close to the World Series is not easy to do,’’ manager Joe Maddon said Sunday.

The Cubs return to PNC Park on Monday for the first time since that showdown, again locked in a battle with the Pirates for the Central -Division.

The Cubs enter the three-game series with the best winning percentage in baseball (17-6, .739). The Pirates are three games back at 15-10 after their six-game winning streak came to an end Sunday with a 6-5 home loss to the Reds in 11 -innings.

The Pirates had the better record last year with 98 victories to the Cubs’ 97.

“Being involved in one game — and I’ve done it twice [also in 2013, with the Rays defeating the Indians] — it’s nerve-racking,’’ Maddon said. “That’s the seventh game.’’

Maddon remembers not just -Arrieta’s five-hit, 11-strikeout performance, but Dexter Fowler’s three hits, including a home run, and Kyle Schwarber’s two-run homer. And the hard double-play ball hit to Addison Russell that came with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth.

The Cubs have since become a “target,’’ a role Maddon relishes. This week, their mettle will be tested. After facing the Pirates, they’ll host the NL East-leading Washington Nationals, who just swept a three-game series against the Cardinals in St. Louis.

“I love that stuff,’’ Maddon said. “It should bring out the best in you when you play really good teams.”

Follow me on Twitter @toniginnetti.

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