Watch out, world: Cubs believe they’re rounding into championship form

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“Strange” doesn’t begin to cover Sunday’s 6-5 come-from-behind victory over the Blue Jays at Wrigley Field.

“Clutch” merely scratches the surface, too.

Look, the Cubs might be a modest 10-9 in August. Their three straight wins over the Jays added up to their first series sweep at home since the opening weekend of June. Their lead in the National League Central remains perilously small.

Yet the feeling was palpable after the Cubs scored three runs in the 10th inning — the last two coming home on catcher Alex Avila’s walk-off single — and hit their “celebration room” extra-hard: They believe they’re rounding into championship-caliber form.

The rest of the division had better watch out. The dominant Dodgers and hotshot Nationals should get a clue, too.

Here come the defending World Series champs.

That’s the way they see it, anyway.

“I do love that we don’t quit,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We talk about it all the time. We don’t quit. … That’s part of becoming a champion. You’ve got to be able to come back.”

It’s hard not to come back when an opponent implodes the way the Jays — namely, closer Roberto Osuna and backup catcher Raffy Lopez — did in Sunday’s final frame.

Osuna, apparently bent on blowing his eighth save of the season, put one ball after another in the dirt. There was the wild pitch on a strikeout of Kyle Schwarber that allowed Schwarber to reach base leading off the inning, and the wild pitch that allowed Schwarber to score from third and cut the deficit to one run. Unafraid to one-up himself, Osuna also one-hopped Strike 3 to Javy Baez, who ran safely to first as Lopez — inexplicably — failed to pounce on the ball and throw Baez out, which would’ve been easy to do.

Did we mention Osuna also hit Jason Heyward with a pitch in the 10th? That loaded the bases for Avila, the recent acquisition from Detroit, who lined one into right to score Ben Zobrist and — safe by the tips of his toes — a sliding Baez.

“The way the boys grinded at the end was awesome,” said starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who gave up three runs — one on a solo homer by ex-Cub Miguel Montero — over six innings. “It definitely was reminiscent of last year somewhat. That’s where we’ve got to get to.”

There were lots of little things to talk about after this truly unusual game. Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo fell on his face fielding a cutoff throw on what should’ve been an out at the plate. Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar — the best in the business? — made one of the plays of the year, crashing into the brick-backed ivy to rob Kris Bryant of extra bases.

And even Avila, the hero, had a stranger-than-strange moment in the top of the 10th, flubbing a simple throw back to reliever Koji Uehara to advance a runner and fuel the Jays’ two-run rally.

“Fluky,” Avila said. “What are you going to do?”

Charge to a commanding lead in the Central, maybe? Finally turn the page from disappointing to formidable? Give the rest of baseball’s contenders something to really worry about?

That’s the idea, anyway. And that’s why Sunday wasn’t about all those little things, but rather about the big picture.

“We want to get on a good roll,” center fielder Albert Almora said. “This series was a great start.”

On Deck: Cubs at Reds

Tuesday: John Lackey (10-9, 4.67) vs. Homer Bailey (4-6, 8.44), 6:10 p.m., WGN, 670-AM

Wednesday: Mike Montgomery (3-6, 3.64) vs. TBA, 6:10 p.m., CSN, 670-AM

Thursday: Jake Arrieta (13-8, 3.63) vs. Sal Romano (3-5, 5.32), 6:10 p.m., CSN, 670-AM

Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.


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