After 101 years, can the Cubs finally clinch a playoff series at Wrigley Field?

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Cubs fans salute their team after an 8-6 victory over the Cardinals in Game 3 of the NLDS at Wrigley Field on October 12th.

CHICAGO – Teams come up with slogans, hashtags or even emojis as a way to inspire their fan base when the stakes are raised.

“Fly The W” is just another example of such a campaign.

The Cubs started it on Twitter when they officially clinched a spot in the 2015 MLB Playoffs-their first appearance in seven seasons. It’s in reference to the “W” flag that flies above the scoreboard after every win and is often held up by fans in the stands when the team is victorious.

A glance at the gallery at Wrigley Field on Monday around 8:45 PM seemed to show that this plan was working.

Hundreds of “W” flags and maybe thousands of “W” towels that were handed out to fans before Game 3 of the National League Division Series were flying high at the end when the Cubs beat the Cardinals 8-6 to take a 2-1 series lead. Celebration was warranted considering the “W” flag had not flown over Wrigley Field in a playoff game since Game 2 of the National League Championship Series in 2003.

Since then the Cubs had lost five-straight home playoff games with all them by at least three runs or more. Hence Cubs fans were more than eager to “Fly The W” on Monday night.

“I thought our fans were fantastic tonight,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s of his first playoff game at Wrigley Field. “The vibe in the ballpark is unbeatable anywhere, anywhere, so the support was there. Our players responded.

“You had to be pretty much entertained if you’re a baseball fan.”

But if Maddon really wants to see those W’s fly, pick up another win tonight. If you think 12 years was long to wait for a postseason win, try snapping a streak of 101 years.

Since the ballpark opened in 1914 the Cubs have never clinched a playoff series at home. They haven’t had a lot of chances to do it but each time they did it ended in a defeat.

The first came on October 10th 1945 in Game 7 of the World Series against the Tigers. A bad start doomed the Cubs as Detroit opened with five first inning runs en route to a 9-3 victory in the last World Series game played by the Cubs.

In 2003 the Cubs had three chances to close out a series with no success. Like Tuesday, the Cubs face the Braves in Game 4 of the NLDS with a chance to advance to the NLCS after a victory in Game 3. But the Cubs didn’t have quite enough offense as Atlanta forced a Game 5 with a 6-4 victory as Sammy Sosa’s potential game-tying home run came just short in center field.

The next two chances for the Cubs in those playoffs to clinch at Wrigley Field are shrouded in infamy.  October 14th, 2003 was the infamous 8th inning collapse in Game 6 of the NLCS against the Marlins as the Cubs allowed eight in the frame in an 8-3 loss. The next night in Game 7 the Cubs again lost a lead in a 9-6 defeat that ended the season.

About the only thing close to clinching a playoff series was the 1998 Wild Card one-game playoff against the Giants. On September 28th the Cubs clinched a spot in the postseason with a 5-3 victory over the Giants but were promptly swept by the Braves in the NLDS.

Over 40,000 fans are expected to see the Cubs try to do that again on Tuesday night as Jason Hammel takes to the mound to face John Lackey, who shut the Cubs down in Game 1 of the series. A spirited crowd and a lot of “W” flags are expected at a chilly Wrigley Field to see if the team can do it.

“Yeah, crowd was unbelievable, all the towels and flags waving around. We love playing here in front of the fans,” said Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant of the crowd. “They’ve been great to us all year. Obviously today was a notch above what they’ve been all year.”

Imagine that escalating Tuesday afternoon-but Maddon will take nothing for granted in this rare home clinching chance.

“You can take nothing for granted,” said Maddon. “You don’t pack up the bats with the last out ever, and I love it for that. I thought our fans were fantastic tonight. The vibe in the ballpark is unbeatable anywhere, anywhere, so the support was there. Our players responded.

“You had to be pretty much entertained if you’re a baseball fan.”

Most likely they were “Flying the W” too.


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