It doesn't matter if the Cubs arrived a year early in the rebuild or not.
All that matters right now is that the Cubs (61-48) are for real, which they proved again Saturday with an 8-6 victory over the San Francisco Giants (59-51) in front of 41,305 fans at Wrigley Field.
It was the Cubs' third straight win over the defending World Series Champs and the ninth win in the last 10 games for Joe Maddon's bunch.
"I'm seeing a much more consistent level of play," Maddon said. "We're really starting to believe in ourselves. I'm still looking for that late-inning, swagger kind of thing.
"I think it's almost there where things get a little freaky and we're still OK. That's the next step. But overall, man, you can't complain with the effort, the intensity, tenacity, whatever you want to call it. Our guys show up to play every day. I love it."
Maddon and the Cubs brushed this week off as just another set of games, but no matter what happens Sunday, the Cubs will come away with a winning record from a tough six-game stretch against the Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates.
"I don't know if I look at it as a measuring stick," Chris Coghlan said. "I just look at it as we're trying to win. I'm not really looking for a moral victory to say that we just played good.
"I think we're coming into our own. Hopefully we can just stay consistent like we are right now."
The Cubs did it all Saturday, collecting 11 hits and eight free passes (six walks, two hit-by-pitches) off Matt Cain and four Giants relievers.
They tallied three insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth and they wound up needing them all as James Russell and Jason Motte allowed the Giants to get back into it with three runs in the ninth before Justin Grimm - the third pitcher of the inning - finally shut the door.
Maddon calls insurance runs "jugulars" or "jugs" as he likens it to going for the kill.
"Those three runs were huge for us," Maddon said. "They matched it. We were able to hang on without the full bullpen today, which was great."
Rookies Kris Bryant and Addison Russell led the charge for the Cubs on offense, combining for four hits, three runs and four RBI, including Bryant's two-run homer in the third inning. Russell doubled twice and singled home one of the "jugs" in the eighth inning.
Miguel Montero came off the disabled list to record an RBI single and also walked twice and tallied a run scored. Kyle Schwarber collected two more hits, a run and an RBI and was also hit with a pitch.
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Kyle Hendricks picked up his sixth win of the season with a gutsy performance, working around five hits and two walks in 5.2 innings, allowing the Giants only three runs.
With the win, the Cubs extended their lead to 2.5 games over the Giants in the battle for the second wild card and will go for the four-game sweep Sunday afternoon with Jake Arrieta on the mound.
"That's the thing we've been talking about - We cannot be satsified," Maddon said. "Our goal is always to win series. We got it. But when you have a chance to go to the next level, you don't just show up. Especially right now.
"I really anticipate us being ready to play [Sunday]. I do. We have Jake pitching. That's kind of a nice setup for us. And they have [Jake] Peavy, who's one of the best competitors I've ever seen.
"It's going to be an interesting Sunday, but you've gotta go out there not being satisfied with what you've just done."