There's a chill in the air around Chicago, the leaves are starting to change color and fans are beginning to discuss the world of "magic numbers."
The Cubs rattled off their fifth straight win Friday, leaning on John Lackey's big performance to take them one step closer to a postseason berth for the third straight year.
Lackey has seemingly been counted out several times this year as a 38-year-old pitcher in the twilight of his career.
But the Cubs are now 9-1 in his last 10 starts after he threw seven shutout innings in a 2-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves in front of 37,280 fans at Wrigley Field.
It was Lackey's second start of at least seven shutout innings this season. The rest of the Cubs starters have combined for three such outings.
"He was really good," Joe Maddon said. "He was making pitches, his velocity stayed up the whole time. Wasn't really threatened. When he struck out Freddie [Freeman in the first inning], that really told me a lot because you normally don't see him look [silly] on any pitch, so I thought, 'something's goin' on here.'"
Maddon admitted Lackey could've gone out for the eighth inning given the tall right-hander needed only 83 pitches to get through seven, but his spot in the batting order came up with a runner on second base in a tight ballgame in the bottom of the seventh and the Cubs manager opted for a pinch-hitter.
Lackey is a flyball pitcher who has given up the second-most homers in baseball this season (32), but his style was perfectly suited for the environment Friday with the wind blowing straight in off the lake at 17 mph.
Lackey and veteran catcher Alex Avila played to the conditions, knowing they can pump the zone with strikes with less fear of a ball soaring into the bleachers.
"If the wind's blowing in here, you use it," Lackey said.
Last October, Lackey was on a short leash, making only one start in each series as the Cubs marched their way to a championship.
This year, if the Cubs are able to make the playoffs again, how will they line up their rotation? Where would Lackey and his 140 career postseason innings fit in?
Jake Arrieta is looking like his Cy Young self again, Kyle Hendricks is healthy and finding his groove, Jon Lester returns from the disabled list Saturday and Jose Quintana is a frontline starter even if he hasn't completely pitched like one in a Cubs uniform. Even swingman Mike Montgomery has proven he is a very capable starting pitcher. But as Maddon said before Friday's game, baseball has a cruel way of answering questions of surplus on a roster.
It's easy for fans and writers to start ruminating about the postseason rotation, but it's too soon for the Cubs coaching staff or front office to worry about it.
It's most certainly too soon for a 38-year-old starting pitcher that may have just begun the final regular season month of his career:
"I just work here."