Joe Maddon insists his young Chicago Cubs play baseball without brooding over winning streaks, playoffs, or outside interferences. While his philosophy is similar to what any manager would expect of their burgeoning rookies, what isn't similar involves the 2015 Cubs lineup, which is becoming an unstoppable force in the National League Central. If you're having trouble believing the once lovable losers have become viable playoff threats, just ask the San Francisco Giants, who'd do anything to take the next plane out of O'Hare Airport -- immediately.
Three games, three Ws. None were dominating, pretty, or expected, but given the onus of proving these Chicago Cubs are for real resides within the rookie class, all wins contained a message to N.L. Central rivals: we're here to stay. The Northsiders have outscored San Francisco 20-14 in three games and face another perennial Cubs killer on Sunday in Jake Peavy. They managed to miss Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum this series, the latter clearly on his downward slope. But they have faced no-hitting pitchers Matt Cain and Chris Heston during this four-game set, the former hurling a perfect game in 2012.
The same team you're witnessing over the past 10 days isn't the same team whitewashed by Philadelphia. These Chicago Cubs have discovered there's fun in playing baseball, with winning close games and knocking in runs an added bonus. Kyle Schwarber has been immortal, showing his ability to play LF and catch while producing results -- even if only hard hit outs -- in every plate appearance. Kris Bryant, who has watched his average dwindle considerably since the All-Star break, experienced a hitter's "nirvana" Saturday, sending a two-run souvenir into the bleachers and racing home on another play. And then there's Addison Russell, whose hitting has earned him extended play at SS -- his natural position.
Lest we forget Anthony Rizzo, an on-base machine who'll draw 30 HBP and 100 BB before it's over.
With a clubhouse adorned with hippie vibes, Jon Lester and pitch framing experts Miguel Montero and David Ross, the future is limitless for these Chicago Cubs. They may not sweep San Francisco, and they'll probably lose a few surprising games along the way. But the one thing no team could take away from this young Cubs organization is the one thing keeping fans pouring into Wrigley Field each day: good times.
Chicago sends another ace to the mound Sunday, Jake Arrieta. With his era running two runs below his career average, it's safe to say he's shaken the weight of his Orioles days behind the skillful tutelage of Chris Bosio. His last contest against the Giants didn't fare well, giving up four earned off seven hits. That, of course, was last year -- an abomination to the current Chicago Cubs team.
After San Francisco packs up for Houston Sunday night, Chicago will entertain Milwaukee for three games before driving to the south side for three games against city rival White Sox.
[Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images]