Cubs roll into NLCS

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[October 13, 2016]  The Sports Xchange

Even the loss to the San Francisco Giants was exhilarating for Cubs manager Joe Maddon. After Chicago's historic send-off in San Francisco ended the National League Division Series, the Cubs are back home and four wins from reaching the World Series.

"I think as a group, obviously, it's two years in a row now that we're getting to this particular level," Maddon said after the Cubs rallied for four runs in the ninth inning of Game 4 to beat the Giants 6-5. "I think it validates on a lot of different levels the job that we have done to this point.

"I think if you're a player on this particular team within the organization, it's getting to the point now you want to expect to get to the postseason and you want to expect to get deeply into the postseason. It also speaks to the way we played. After the game, even on the mound there taking the photographs, the guys were chanting 'We don't quit, we don't quit.'"

Left-hander Jon Lester is likely to make his 16th career playoff start in Game 1 of the NLCS. He won Game 1, 1-0 over the Giants, to open the playoffs for the Cubs. This is the fourth consecutive season ending in the postseason for Lester, who started one game for the Oakland Athletics in 2014 and four with the Red Sox in 2013.

Lester was 0-2 in the postseason for the Cubs in 2015.

Maddon and the Cubs have two days to restore themselves while the Nationals and Dodgers fight for the right to open the NLCS at Wrigley Field on Saturday.

The Cubs are heavy favorites after leading baseball in wins during the regular season and slaying the seemingly immortal Giants, who had won 11 consecutive playoff elimination games. Expectations are not to be viewed as extra weight in Maddon's clubhouse.

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"We love it," Maddon said following Chicago's 106th win this season. "Expectations is a good word. Because normally it means that you have something good attached to it at the other side. Pressure expectations, I want our guys to thrive on those two words for the years to come, I want the organization to. In the end that means there's a lot of expected of you. Good. There should be. We should all have a lot expected of us. And then it should be it should manifest itself in the sense that it should bring out the best you."

Maddon worked closely with Dodgers team president Andrew Friedman, who ran the front office when Maddon managed the Tampa Bay Rays, but he denied having any preference of opponent in the next round.

"It doesn't matter," he said. "Because when you start worrying about who you're going to play, it could bite you. Because it really shouldn't matter. We played both groups this year. We played decently against both. It's a different time of the year. So, again, I really don't. I'm just happy to be in the dance."

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