The Cubs woke up Friday morning riding the high of their longest winning streak in nearly four months (five games) and a season-high 11 games over .500.
That was only good enough for a half-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the division, but the Cubs will take it considering the way things were just a week ago.
After getting swept by Bryce Harper's Phillies on the road, the Cubs went to Pittsburgh and witnessed another late bullpen meltdown last Friday. But they haven't lost since and it's gotten to the point where Joe Maddon was asked ahead of the series with the Nationals if he feels his team is clicking in all facets of the game.
Maddon didn't answer that question directly, but it's a fair assessment of this team right now. As an added boost, Ben Zobrist should be activated off the restricted list next weekend and Willson Contreras will travel with the Cubs to New York next week and could ramp up his baseball activities there as he recovers from a Grade-2 hamstring strain.
What a difference a week makes.
"I can't emphasize enough — it is a 24-hour cycle," Maddon said. "It's no different than a news cycle and if you have a bad day, our game is so beautiful you can have a great day the very next night. You don't have to wait a week to play again.
"I've been involved in some really tight races in September where you're going good, good, good and all the sudden, man, you get your teeth smashed in towards the end and you can't permit that to take you out of your methods. It's great that the boys feel that way. I feel that way.
"I still believe our best baseball's ahead of us for the rest of the season. ... With the new additions and the guys coming back, we should be capable of doing that kind of stuff."
The Cubs still have 14 games left with the Cardinals and Brewers, including a series each in St. Louis (Sept. 27-29) and Milwaukee (Sept. 5-8).
With just over five weeks left in the season, the division race could come down to that final weekend of the year in St. Louis. That is, unless one team goes on a run and pull away with things before that point.
Either way, the Cubs are just trying to stay focused on their game while blocking out all the outside noise, which is something Javy Baez felt they didn't accomplish down the stretch last season.
"I think we're in a good spot," Baez said earlier this month. "We're actually not paying attention to other teams. It looks like they're paying attention to us. We've had ups and downs and we're just trying to get that out of the way and keep going.
"Me personally, I can't play with the scoreboard. I know where the game's at, but I can't play with numbers. I put too much pressure on myself."
Given the way last year ended and the call for more urgency this season, things certainly haven't played out in a dream scenario for the 2019 Cubs. The more time that goes by, the more 2016 looks like an outlier in terms of the way that team cruised and how pretty much everything went right.
But the rest of the division — and the entire National League — has improved while the Cubs are still searching for consistency in their own game, particularly away from Wrigley Field.
Still, there are way worse positions to be in than a half-game up in the division with five-and-a-half weeks to go.
"We all know what's at stake here," Kyle Schwarber said. "We're in a good position where we're in control of our own destiny. It doesn't really matter the home/road splits — it just comes down to playing each ballgame, one game at a time. It doesn't matter if we're at home or on the road, we got X amount of ballgames left and we can control what we do."