The Chicago Cubs have clinched the Nl Central title Wednesday night in St. Louis with a 5-1 win over the Cardinals. For the third consecutive year, the Cubs are on their way to the postseason for the first time since 1906-1919. The defending World Series champions will begin their quest to defend their title starting next Friday in Washington D.C. as they will take on the Nationals in the NLDS.

While it felt great for the Cubs to clinch on their biggest rival's turf, this accomplishment feels like routine business at this point. For so long the Cubs were the "Lovable Losers" who were never expected to win or have any sustained success.

Owner Tom Ricketts and president Theo Epstein came in and rebuilt the franchise and flipped the narrative, now success is expected of this team. In the past two seasons, the Cubs have won the World Series in 2016 and made it to the NLCS in 2015, which was considered having success ahead of schedule. The still-young Cubs now are expected to be in postseason races now and for years to come.

Roller coaster season

It was not the easiest ride to back-to-back division titles this season as the Cubs got off to a mediocre start and found themselves in the middle of the pack during a chunk of the year. At the All-Star break, the Cubs were 43-45 and 5.5 back of the surprising Milwaukee Brewers and the certainty of another postseason berth did not seem 100 percent assured.

The team's pitching had dropped off with a collective 4.10 ERA, the hitting was not at timely with a .326 on-base percentage, and the defenders were among the league leaders in errors.

During the break, the Cubs got Jose Quintana from the White Sox and came out in the second half blazing going 13-3 which propelled them to the top.

Though they fought off the Cardinals and Brewers to the end, the Cubs gained full control with a series sweep of the Cardinals at Wrigley Field September 15-17 and winning three of four against the Brewers last weekend. The Cubs in the second half lead baseball in runs scored with 406 and the starting pitchers have an ERA of 3.42.

The race ended yesterday, the same date (9/27) the Cubs clinched the division title in 2003 when they rallied late to beat the Cardinals 5-1. John Lackey pitched six innings of one-run ball, and the Cubs scored five runs in the seventh inning to take the lead for good. Addison Russell hit the game-winning three-run home run in the seventh, and Wade Davis closed out the game by getting Randal Grichuk to fly out to the wall in center field.

Looking forward to October

Now comes some important decisions by Joe Maddon. Looking forward to the NLDS, the Cubs will face a Washington team with Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals already have clinched home field so the Cubs will play the first two games at Nationals Park before their first game at Wrigley Field on Monday.

The biggest question right now is what the starting rotation will look like. The usual guy to start a game one is Jon Lester, but his recent struggles may make Maddon rethink that. The hottest pitchers in the rotation currently include Kyle Hendricks (2.34 ERA in last 12 starts) and Jose Quintana (1.63 ERA in September) which is something for Maddon to consider. Jake Arrieta is another candidate for being the number one starter, but his recent hamstring injury can play a roll in when he plays as he still felt lingering effects from it in his last start. The odd man out seems to be John Lackey despite his second-half success. He can still be on the roster but likely not as a starter. Right now the game one starter seems up for grabs, but do not be surprised if Lester still gets the call.