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Despite NLCS loss, Cubs still set for future

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- The Cubs aren't going to repeat as World Series champions, but manager Joe Maddon is quick to remind fans that getting to the National League Championship Series three years in a row is quite an accomplishment and that the future is bright.

"I think we did OK based on how we started [the season]," Maddon said. "Three trips to this neck of the woods doesn't happen often. We're young, and we're no longer inexperienced. We've been young and inexperienced, and now we're just young, so that's nice. Eventually, the young will become veterans, too."

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CHICAGO -- The Cubs aren't going to repeat as World Series champions, but manager Joe Maddon is quick to remind fans that getting to the National League Championship Series three years in a row is quite an accomplishment and that the future is bright.

"I think we did OK based on how we started [the season]," Maddon said. "Three trips to this neck of the woods doesn't happen often. We're young, and we're no longer inexperienced. We've been young and inexperienced, and now we're just young, so that's nice. Eventually, the young will become veterans, too."

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On Thursday, the Cubs were eliminated as the Dodgers clinched the NL pennant with an 11-1 victory, taking the best-of-seven NLCS presented by Camping World, 4-1.

:: NLCS schedule and coverage ::

"We've got a pretty good core here, and a lot of guys will be here next year, too," third baseman Kris Bryant said. "If you look at it, being in the final four of baseball, out of all the good teams out there, we're not going to hang our heads. There's a lot of positives."

The foundation is there, featuring Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, Willson Contreras, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr. and Jason Heyward. Rizzo and Heyward are the old men in the group at 28. Also, rookie Ian Happ got a jump-start on his career, hitting 24 homers and driving in 68 runs during the regular season.

The Cubs will have to address their pitching. Starters Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana return, but Jake Arrieta and John Lackey are free agents. Closer Wade Davis is also a free agent, which means the Cubs could have their fourth different closer in the last three years in 2018.

This year, the Cubs added relievers Koji Uehara and Justin Wilson, but neither was on the NLCS roster. Uehara was bothered by injuries and totaled 43 innings, while Wilson was ineffective. Carl Edwards Jr. has pitched in the postseason two consecutive years, and he will likely be used more in a setup role in '18.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Joe Maddon on Lackey's future with Cubs

Rizzo sees plenty of positives, even if the Cubs did come up short in the postseason.

"We're going to consistently be here for years to come, and that's what this organization has been built on," Rizzo said. "We started building five, six years ago to compete every single year, and we're in position to do that. We'll be in the position next year to make another run. It's not going to come easy, and something we can't take for granted."

The Cubs need a leadoff man. They need to figure out how to score runs without relying on homers -- all of their runs in the NLCS came on home runs. But Maddon doesn't see major changes.

"You look at the group and the breakdown of the team, and if there are certain things that didn't carry you all the way to the World Series, you look at what part was lacking," Maddon said. "Those are the things you ask. When you're this successful for three consecutive years, there's tweaking going on, there's not mass reconstruction.

"It's not plastic surgery. I think it's just something minor, and you might just have to cut off a zit here or there and not augmentation."

Video: NLCS Gm5: Maddon discusses NLCS loss against Dodgers

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs