Cubs set out to end drought
Photo Source: AP
The Chicago Cubs will attempt to snap the longest title drought in professional sports history when the MLB playoffs begin this week, while for Boston, it's all about sending slugger David Ortiz out with a storybook ending to his career.
The Cubs, who over the years have endured plenty of heartache, boast a stacked lineup and rock-solid pitching that have made them the odds-on favourite to shed their "lovable losers" image and win their first World Series title since 1908.
They were the only MLB team to reach the 100-win mark this year, and will open their playoff campaign at home on Friday in a best-of-five National League Division Series versus the winner of Wednesday's wild card showdown between San Francisco and the New York Mets.
"There's nothing different to do right now except play the game," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon.
"It's about whether your pitcher pitches better, if we catch the ball. I don't want us to do anything differently."
The other NL matchup will see a pitching-rich Los Angeles Dodgers team that tore though the second half of the 162-game regular season battle Washington, with game one in the nation's capital.
The American League's top-seeded Texas Rangers, bolstered by one of MLB's most potent offenses and a deep starting rotation, open their division series at home on Thursday versus the winner of Tuesday's wild card showdown between the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore.
In the other AL Division Series, Ortiz will lead the Red Sox into a best-of-five clash with Cleveland that starts on Thursday in Ohio.
For Boston's Ortiz, who already announced this would be his last MLB season, a fourth World Series title would allow him to put an exclamation point on what has already been one of the greatest final seasons by a player in MLB history.
In his 20th campaign, the 40-year-old slugger had a .315 batting average, 38 home runs, and 127 runs batted.
Ortiz built much of his reputation as one of the game's most feared hitters with several monumental postseason performances and his Boston teammates are hopeful Big Papi has one more deep run left in him.
"I've seen him for 10 years and it's pretty special," said long-time Ortiz teammate Dustin Pedroia.