Cubs

Cubs party at Wrigley and celebrate their return to the playoffs

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Cubs party at Wrigley and celebrate their return to the playoffs

The Cubs woke up on Saturday morning as a playoff team for the first time in seven years.

There was no way a 4-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates would stop them from partying with fans at Wrigley Field after the game.

"When you plan stuff, it doesn't always go exactly how you want," president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said amid the celebration on the field. "But our guys deserve this. Frankly, it would have been out of personality for them not to celebrate in a big way, despite the circumstances.

"They deserve it and I'm proud of them. Let them do whatever they want within the law."

[MORE - Bring on October: Cubs ready to handle the playoff pressure]

The Cubs clinched their playoff spot overnight as the San Francisco Giants lost on the West Coast. The Cubs lost the first two games of the series to Pittsburgh's top two pitchers, Gerrit Cole (Friday) and Francisco Liriano (Saturday), scoring a total of two runs in 18 innings and falling to 5.5 games behind the Pirates in the wild-card race.

That essentially dashed any hopes of hosting that one-game playoff at Wrigley Field. But the celebration on the field wasn't just about one game or even this series with the Pirates.

"Even though we did not win the game today, that really does not matter in a sense," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's a celebration of a season, to this point only.

"We have a lot of work left. Trust me, our guys will be ready for the next week and what happens after that."

Maddon has been talking about the playoffs since his introductory press conference back in November.

Baseball experts doubted him and said it was a year too early for the young Cubs to contend, but Maddon didn't mind being an underdog.

"That's OK," he said. "We had to go out and actually do it."

[SHOP: Get your official Cubs postseason gear]

Epstein signed on to rebuild the team back in October 2011. As he was watching the Giants lose, he couldn't help but think back to where it all began.

"You can't script it," Epstein said. "Last night, there was an awful lot of thinking back to 2011, 2012 and how daunting the task seemed for a lot of people involved and how much work people put in."

How did Epstein and his front office cohorts celebrate as they watched their Cubs clinch a playoff berth?

"A bunch of us just started texting each other, basically ripping on each other for being old fogeys," Epstein said.

"Ten years ago, we all would have been out tearing it up. But we all just texted from bed, basically."

A series to forget: Facts and figures from Cubs' rough weekend in Cincinnati

A series to forget: Facts and figures from Cubs' rough weekend in Cincinnati

The Cubs and their fans may want to invent and use one of those Men In Black neuralyzers because the four-game series in Cincinnati was one to forget.

The Reds finished off a four-game sweep of the Cubs on Sunday with an 8-6 win. The way the Reds won the finale will be especially painful for the Cubs considering they led 6-1 after six innings. Mike Montgomery appeared to tire in the seventh inning and Pedro Strop got rocked out of the bullpen to lead to a seven-run seventh for the hosts.

The Reds have now won seven in a row and 10 of 12, but still sit 13 games under .500. Bizarrely, the Reds also swept the Dodgers, the Cubs’ next opponent, in a four-game series in May. Duane Underwood will start for the Cubs Monday against the Dodgers and make his major league debut.

Here are some other wild facts and figures from the series:

  • The last time the Reds swept the Cubs in a four-game series was back in 1983. That was the first week of the season and three weeks before the infamous Lee Elia rant.
  • One positive for the Cubs from the game was Montgomery’s start. Through six innings he allowed one run on three hits and two walks. However, he gave up a single, a double and a single in the seventh before Strop relieved him. Montgomery had gone six innings and allowed one run in each of his last four outings.
  • Strop was definitely a negative. On his first pitch, Strop gave up a home run to pinch-hitter Jesse Winker, the second home run for a Reds pinch-hitter in the game. Then Strop allowed a single, a walk, a single and a double before getting an out. Strop’s final line: 2/3 inning pitched, four runs, one strikeout, three walks, four hits.
  • The Cubs led in three of the four games this series, including two leads after five innings.
  • The Cubs were 5-for-23 (.217) with runners in scoring position in the series. On the season the Cubs are hitting .233 with RISP, which is 22nd in the majors and fourth-worst in the National League (but ahead of the division-rival Brewers and Cardinals).
  • The Reds outscored the Cubs 31-13 and scored at least six runs in every game. The Reds are now 6-3 against the Cubs this year after going a combined 17-40 against the Cubs from 2015-2017.

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 32nd homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 32nd homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa victimized the Tigers pitching staff again on the next night, taking Brian Moehler deep in the 7th inning for a 400-foot solo blast.

The homer tied the game at 3, but the Cubs blew the lead in the bottom of the 7th when the Terrys (Adams and Mulholland) gave up 3 runs. The Cubs wound up losing 6-4.

The Cubs were putting together a really nice season in 1998 that ended with a trip to October. They entered the series with the Tigers with a 42-34 record, yet lost both games to a Detroit team that entered the series with a 28-45 record. The Tigers finished the season 65-94; the Cubs finished 90-73.

Fun fact: Luis Gonzalez was the Tigers left fielder and No. 5 hitter for both games of the series. He spent part of the 1995 season and all of '96 on Chicago's North Side. 1998 was his only year in Detroit before he moved on to Arizona, where he hit 57 homers in 2001 and helped the Diamondbacks to a World Series championship with that famous broken-bat single in Game 7.

Fun fact  No. 2: Remember Pedro Valdes? He only had a cup of coffee with the Cubs (9 games in 1996 and 14 in '98), but started in left field on June 25, 1998. He walked and went 0-for-1 before being removed from the game for a pinch-hitter (Jose Hernandez).