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With two weeks left in the shortened season, the postseason starts now for the Cubs

The Cubs are attempting to play their best baseball of the season before the playoffs come. They showed that in Tuesday’s 6-5 victory over the Indians.

Cubs starter Yu Darvish delivers a pitch against the Indians Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.
Cubs starter Yu Darvish delivers a pitch against the Indians Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.
Quinn Harris/Getty Images

With two weeks left in the regular season, it feels like the postseason has already started for the Cubs, who have played tight games over the last week — each increasingly intense and important.

“I think it all started when [Jason Heyward] hit that big home run off [the Brewers’ Josh] Hader [on Saturday],” right-hander Alec Mills said before Tuesday’s game against the Indians. “I think that was huge for us. For me, I kind of felt the momentum kind of shift a little bit more in our favor.”

The atmosphere continued at Wrigley Field in another closely contested game as the Cubs surrendered a two-run lead in the ninth inning and still found a way to defeat the Indians 6-5.

After ace Yu Darvish allowed three runs over his first five innings, the offense responded, scoring two runs in the bottom of the fifth on a single by Kris Bryant and a double by Anthony Rizzo to tie the game at 3. The Cubs added two more runs in the seventh and eighth.

The offense picked up closer Jeremy Jeffress (4-1) after he allowed Francisco Lindor’s tying two-run homer in the ninth. After the Cubs loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning, Indians reliver Nick Wittgren hit pinch-hitter Cameron Maybin with a pitch, bringing home the winning run.

“That’s been something that’s been in this team’s culture for a while now — coming from behind and winning games,” Bryant said. “It’s always nice to feel like we kind of stole a win. We had one in Milwaukee — felt like we stole a win — and so anytime you do that, it definitely feels good.”

Darvish had more traffic than usual but worked around the additional baserunners and was able to avoid the big inning. He didn’t allow another run to score after the fifth and finished with his ninth consecutive quality start, allowing three runs over seven innings. He struck out seven and walked one.

While Javy Baez’s solo homer in the second was a big moment, it was the Cubs’ baserunning that paid the most dividends Tuesday, particularly from Bryant. He scored from second on Rizzo’s double in the fifth and went from first to third in the eighth and ninth, making it possible to score the winning run.

Baez also added another standout play to his résumé, scoring from first in the eighth after stealing second and scoring on an errant throw from center fielder Delino DeShields.

“Baserunning, we’ve needed to improve on here a lot,” manager David Ross said. “We did have some really good baserunning tonight. We also had some not-so-good baserunning tonight. The goal is to be consistent. When KB gets on base, that’s what he brings. Just an easy stride, first to third, twice tonight. Really good heads-up baserunning. That’s definitely part of our game.”

Over the last four games, the Cubs have played like they know they still have something to prove. And their schedule has also added to the atmosphere. With two additional playoff spots in the American and National League this season, every team the Cubs will play over the final two weeks, with the exception of the Pirates, is within three games of a playoff spot.

“I think when you get back in the division, the intensity ramps back up,” Ross said. “The two teams know each other really well, and so you feel a little bit more of that playoff atmosphere.

“The teams we’ve been playing are pushing for spots. We’re pushing for a spot. We’re pushing to play the best baseball we can, and we’re in a good situation standings-wise, but we want to be playing the best baseball we can so we can go deep into October and reach our goal. So, yeah, it’s definitely felt a little ramped up.”