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From start to finish: How the Cubs won the NL Central

Five key moments that made a difference in the shortened season

Willson Contreras hits a three-run home run before launching his bat into orbit against the White Sox on Friday.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

We all just watched a unique season in baseball’s long and storied history with only 60 games, no fans, and social distancing... are we still calling them requirements? They honestly seem more like suggestions at this point. Whatever, I digress. It was a wild season, and one that found the Chicago Cubs on top of the NL Central when all of the games were played.

I know it seems like 67 years ago, but it has only been 67 days since Kyle Hendricks took the mound for his first Opening Day start — a complete-game shutout that the Cubs rode to a 13-3 start. That put them on top of the NL Central and while they never looked back it really seemed like every part of this team struggled at some point in time after the first week of August. While I always knew this team had a comeback in them I admit I wasn’t sure there was enough time for it to all come together.

On September 12 with the Cubs’ anemic offense trailing the Brewers 2-0, the prospects of a comeback seemed bleak. After all, Josh Hader being on the mound didn’t seem like the thing that would wake up the Cubs bats and Jason Heyward didn’t seem like the guy who would do it. Don’t get me wrong, 2020 JHey has been powering the Cubs offense. He’s second in fWAR to Ian Happ and put up a respectable wRC+ of 130 over the short season - but this was Hader, who had given up something insane like two hits prior to the two he gave up to the Cubs that inning and is notoriously hard on lefties.

I may have screamed some game thread words I was so beyond ecstatic on my couch. Baseball is a weird sport but if you watch it long enough you know that good teams have moments. Improbable comebacks and hits that seem to come out of nowhere at precisely the right time. The Cubs comeback victory powered by home runs from Heyward and Ildemaro Vargas on September 12 felt like one of those moments, Alec Mills’ improbable no-hitter on September 13 put an exclamation point on that feeling.

While there were some rough spots in their final 14 games (let’s never talk about that Pirates series again), they went 8-6, capturing the division. More importantly, they ended the season with a statement almost as loud as Hendricks’ on Opening Day with a little help from an epic Willson Contreras bat flip, left-handed hitting Javier Báez, and 2Chains Kris Bryant —who doubled his home run and RBI total from the first 32 games in his last two.

The Cubs enter the postseason with two legitimate aces and one of the best active postseason pitchers in history. The offense has always been streaky, but looked like they were on fire on the South Side of Chicago. This team has gotten it done from start to finish, and I firmly believe there is enough magic left in Mike Napoli’s gold chains for them to do some damage in the postseason.

Take a look back at my five key moments from the 2020 Cubs season in the video below, and then create your own highlight reel at the Cubs Film Room. You can share your video with family and friends. If you’re the tweeting type be sure to use #CubsFilmRoom on your tweet - there is a chance it will be featured on Marquee Sports Network’s postseason coverage which kicks off with a special preview show tonight at 6 p.m CT and will feature Cubs Live! pre and postgame analysis from Cole Wright and the team for every Cubs postseason game.