CHICAGO -- Long before Ian Happ brought the Wrigley Field crowd to life with a go-ahead three-run homer that capped a rally Friday afternoon, Cubs fans found reason to celebrate.• Dress for October: Get NL Central champs gearTwo days after they clinched the National League Central title with a victory
CHICAGO -- Long before Ian Happ brought the Wrigley Field crowd to life with a go-ahead three-run homer that capped a rally Friday afternoon, Cubs fans found reason to celebrate.
• Dress for October: Get NL Central champs gear
Two days after they clinched the National League Central title with a victory in St. Louis, the Cubs began their final regular-season homestand not only with a comeback win over the Reds, but with moment to reflect on their third straight postseason berth.
A pregame video tribute encapsulated Chicago's run to the division title before players emerged out of the dugout and acknowledged a standing ovation. But after Friday's 5-4 victory that gave the Cubs their 91st win of the season, manager Joe Maddon made one thing clear: The Cubs aren't content with celebrating winning their division as they begin preparations for next week's NL Division Series presented by T-Mobile against the Nationals.
"Our guys also know there's more work to be done," Maddon said. "It's not like the first time you've done it -- you're so effusively happy that you'll just take anything. Our guys like it, they appreciate it, but we have a lot of work left to do."
Happ's game-winning home run Friday sparked a victory that came with many of the Cubs regulars on the bench. Maddon elected to give many of his starters a second straight day off. Most are expected to return, at least for a limited time, beginning Saturday as the Cubs begin to turn their focus toward the postseason at the Nats.
So on Friday, Happ played the role of hero.
"My goal is to help us win baseball games," Happ said. "To be able to do that on a daily basis, there's nothing better."
For a second straight day, though, Chicago found a way to win without many of its everyday players. Taylor Davis' RBI double in the 11th inning on Thursday gave the Cubs a 2-1 victory over the rival Cardinals -- a win that was finished off when reserve outfielder Leonys Martin robbed the Cardinals' Paul DeJong of a game-tying home run.
Happ's emergence in his rookie year continues to demonstrate just how deep the Cubs are heading into their third straight postseason. And like in the past two seasons -- when the Cubs captured a World Series title a year after reaching the NL Championship Series -- that depth has loomed large for a team that has no shortage of star power.
Heading into a series in which the Cubs will be considered underdogs to the NL East-champion Nationals, the fact so many of Maddon's youngsters have proven themselves on a big stage creates confidence around the clubhouse.
"Obviously, playing in the World Series is going to be the best experience that you can have in the postseason," third baseman Kristopher Bryant said before sitting out Friday's victory. "Yeah, we're a young team, but a lot of us have played in a lot of playoff games, and so hopefully, we can use that to our experience."
Jeff Arnold is a contributor to MLB.com based in Chicago.