Cubs-Cards rivalry sparks in playoffs

By Christopher Loggins

For the first time in baseball history, storied rivals Cubs and Cardinals have met for a postseason series after finishing with two of the MLB’s best records, and I believe Chicago is ready for the big stage.

Coming into the 2015 season, the Cubs were a team on the rise. Although they hadn’t had much success over the last few years, they have since acquired an array of young talent that seem to be the future of the franchise.

I thought the city of Chicago was in for a big surprise, but I didn’t know how quickly the Cubs would take off as a top team. Being that they are a young team, I figured it would take the Cubs a year or two to get where they wanted to be. They play in the same division as the Cardinals and Pirates, two of the top teams in the MLB, and would surely have to go through some hurdles.

The Cubs were in the process of bringing up infielder Kris Bryant, the top prospect in all of baseball, and had upcoming players including Addison Russell, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber, and many more at the beginning of the season.

The team made one of the biggest acquisitions of the offseason, signing 31-year-old pitcher Jon Lester to a six-year, $155 million deal. It also hired renowned manager Joe Maddon, who left the Rays for the opportunity to manage the Cubs.

The NL Central is home to the top three teams in all of baseball, as the Cardinals finished 100-62 and the Pirates finished 98-64. The Cubs and Pirates played a wild card game to end the season that ended in a 4-0 win for the Cubs. Arrieta came up big again, pitching a complete game and five-hit shutout, setting up a divisional playoff series between Chicago and long-time rival Cardinals.

The Cubs proved all of my theories to be wrong, as they virtually took over the entire major league in 2015. The club ended the regular season with a 97-65 record, the third best record in the majors, giving them their first playoff berth since 2008. Bryant finished his rookie season with a .275 batting average, hitting 26 home runs and driving in 99 runs. He picked up 31 doubles, five triples, 77 walks and 13 stolen bases, and will surely be a top pick for the Rookie of the Year.

The biggest surprise of the season was the emergence of pitcher Jake Arrieta, who took over as the Cubs’ ace even after the signing of Lester. Arrieta finished the season with a 22-6 record, pitching over 200 innings and posting a whopping ERA of 1.77, becoming a favorite for the Cy Young Award.

It’s hard to believe that although the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry is one of the biggest in all of sports, the two teams had never met in the postseason. Baseball is in for a great series between two of the top teams in the league.

The Cardinals got the series started quickly, beating the Cubs 4-0 in game one as John Lackey pitched over seven innings of shutout baseball. My initial reaction was that the Cubs were riding off of the success of their previous game against the Pirates and hadn’t been in the postseason in seven years. The loss was enough to knock off those postseason jitters they probably had.

Chicago bounced back in game 2 like I figured they would, beating St. Louis 6-3 and tying the series up at a game apiece. The series is gearing up to be one for the books, and I’m excited to see how it plays out.

The MLB playoffs are set to be unpredictable as usual, and the Cubs-Cardinals could be the best series of it all in my opinion. Game three will take place at 5:07 p.m. today at Wrigley Field.