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How the 2015 Chicago Cubs survived into the postseason

A revamped Cubs team had the third-best record in baseball and the franchise's most wins since 2008.

Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

A loss by the San Francisco Giants on September 26 mean that the Chicago Cubs clinched a Wild Card berth into the postseason. Granted, with a 97-65 record the Cubs were well on their way to clinching a berth without help from San Francisco. The 97 wins were the third-most in baseball and marked a 26-win improvement from 2014. Here's a look at just how the Cubs succeeded in 2015:

Joe Maddon and Jon Lester add big-name cache

As they reached the end of their rebuilding process, the Cubs brought in manager Joe Maddon from Tampa Bay, where he made four postseason appearances and won the AL pennant in 2008 with the Rays. Chicago also signed pitcher Jon Lester to a six-year, $155 million deal to help lead its rotation, which he did with a 3.34 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 205 innings this season. Lester is in line to start Game 1 of the NLDS should the Cubs win the Wild Card game.

Kris Bryant lives up to the hype

After spending the first two weeks of the season at Triple-A Iowa, top prospect Kris Bryant was promoted to Chicago and became one of the Cubs' best hitters. In 151 games at the big league level this season, Bryant hit .275/.369/.488 with 26 home runs. Despite an NL-leading 199 strikeouts, Bryant was third in baseball among third basemen with 6.5 fWAR, trailing only Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado.

Jake Arrieta's dominant second half

Right-hander Jake Arrieta had a perfectly good first half of the season, with a 2.66 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in 18 starts, but his second half of the season propelled him from a guy who did not make the All-Star Game to a leading contender for the Cy Young Award. In 107⅓ innings after the All-Star break, Arrieta posted a 0.75 ERA and 0.73 WHIP, striking out 113 and throwing a no-hitter against the Dodgers on August 30. The Cubs were 14-1 with Arrieta on the mound in the second half, so it is no surprise that he will be called on for the Wild Card game in Pittsburgh.