The Cubs accomplished their first goal of the 2020 season by locking up a National League playoff berth Tuesday.
They achieved their second goal by clinching the NL Central title Saturday despite a 9-5 loss to the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field, thanks to the Brewers’ 3-0 victory against the Cardinals.
Now they can set their sights on loftier things.
‘‘A lot of hard work for those guys,’’ manager David Ross said. ‘‘Overcoming a lot this year. Really a unique season, and I couldn’t be prouder of what these guys mean to me and this organization and how they carry themselves.’’
The division title — the Cubs’ first since 2017 — comes after disappointing finishes the last two seasons. The Cubs were bounced in the NL wild-card game by the Rockies in 2018 and missed the playoffs last season.
‘‘Not making the playoffs last year, getting beat in the wild-card game before that, this one feels good,’’ first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. ‘‘With the 60-game season and everything [that] has gone on, it just feels really good to win the division and be able to play at home and take our playoff experience to whoever we’re going to play.’’
The Cubs will return to the postseason with the hopes of making a deep run in what might be the last chance together for their core.
‘‘This has been a special going on six years now,’’ outfielder Kyle Schwarber said. ‘‘Three [NL Championship Series], a World Series championship, winning the division, winning the wild-card game [in 2015]. It’s been a special six years, and we don’t want to be known just for breaking the curse. We want to keep doing this thing.’’
‘‘If you look at the course of these last six years, it just feels like this whole culture — in this clubhouse, in the city and stuff like that — it’s just a winning culture now,’’ third baseman Kris Bryant said. ‘‘That hadn’t been here in a very long time. It’s a testament to everybody involved here. . . . Brought this team out of the gutters. Made the Cubs who they are. It’s been really special to be a part of that.’’
The Cubs also clinched the No. 3 seed in the NL and will play the No. 6 seed in the best-of-three wild-card round that begins Wednesday. All the games in that series will be played at Wrigley Field.
‘‘I’ve always just been a big believer in getting in,’’ said left-hander Jon Lester, who allowed seven runs in 3 2/3 innings Saturday. ‘‘If that path is winning the division, great. That means we played really well throughout the season. But the biggest thing is getting in.’’
Ross has seen firsthand what the Cubs’ core has accomplished, both individually and as a team. He thinks they have the pedigree to make some noise this postseason and thinks they still have something in the tank.
‘‘It’s something to be really proud of,’’ he said. ‘‘I think it’s something that’s hard in the moment to assess all of it. But when you’re going to look back, all these guys — front
office and the people associated with this team and the players and the coaches that have been part of this magnificent run — are going to be really proud. They’re going to look back and say, ‘Man, we’ve done something,’ and I don’t think that the end of the script is written yet for this group.’’