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The Cubs curbed their curse — who’s next to end drought?

By Ben Walker

AP Baseball Writer

Now that the Cubs have broken baseball’s oldest curse, who’s next?

From D.C. to Dodger Stadium, a lot of loaded teams are lurking, waiting for that elusive World Series win.

New Cardinals leadoff man Dexter Fowler has a clue which club might break through.

“I guess Cleveland,” he said.

Fowler got a close-up look last fall. He was part of the Cubs squad that ended a 108-year championship drought by denying the Indians their first title since 1948.

Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and the Houston Astros seem ready to rocket into October orbit.

‘Bout time for a team still searching for that first crown.

“I wouldn’t mind taking us off that list,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.

Been a while, too, since the U.S. capital was the baseball capital — 1924, to be exact.

“It would put the Nationals on the map,” Washington manager Dusty Baker said. “Rightfully so, this is a Redskins town. They’ve been there a long time. They’ve got a history of success.”

Coming off six straight losing years, the Colorado Rockies appear far from contending. Of course, there’s always hope, especially when every team is 0-0.

“That’s the goal for us, is to win the whole thing,” shortstop Trevor Story said.

Besides, he saw the huge turnaround in Chicago that led to a humongous celebration.

“It’s cool, especially for a team like us. We’re not spending crazy amounts of money and stuff like that. We have to draft good. It’ll be sweet once it finally happens and those years in the past will make the wins just that much more sweet,” Story said.

Let’s look at who could be next to jettison the jinx:

JUST MISSED

The Royals’ crowning achievement in 2015 came a year after they fell 90 feet short of catching Madison Bumgarner in Game 7. So, coming close can mean there’s drama on deck.

The Indians hope so. Remember, they nearly won last November — they went into the bottom of the ninth in Game 7 tied with the Cubs, and had the top of their order up against a tiring Aroldis Chapman.

Cleveland boosted its chances during the winter by signing big bopper Edwin Encarnacion to a $60 million deal, the most expensive free agent in team history.

BLAST OFF

Dallas Keuchel and the Astros are tired of waiting. It’s certainly been a long one — Houston began play in 1962 and has reached the World Series only once, getting swept by the White Sox in 2005.

After losing 111 games a few years ago, the Astros quickly rebuilt their front office, roster and approach. That’s a familiar formula — like the Cubs, Houston developed through the draft, made a couple of trades, then spent a lot for free agents.

Now, newcomers Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Josh Reddick could help bring that long overdue title to town.

“I’d like to be the first team in Texas after growing up in Dallas,” slugger Evan Gattis said. “I think we definitely have the ingrediewnts.”

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LONESOME STAR STATE

The Cowboys, the Longhorns, the Mavericks and more — every major pro and college sports trophy has been won at least once by a Texas team. Except the World Series, that is.

The Rangers came the closest, just one strike away in 2011 before St. Louis rallied. With young stars, a healthy Yu Darvish and a winning culture, they could end a skid that started with their move from Washington for the 1972 season under manager Ted Williams.

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WINDOW PAINS

We frequently hear that a team built to win right now is running out of time. But how often do those clubs jump through before the window closes? Uh, not many.

The Tigers (no title since 1984) and Toronto (last in 1993) both added ace David Price in recent years but lost in the playoffs.

That brings us to Washington, a city without a World Series winner in nearly a century. The current Nationals franchise dates to 1969 in Montreal, where the Expos never reached la Serie mondiale.

Bryce Harper is getting closer to free agency, Stephen Strasburg is hurt a lot, Ryan Zimmerman is wearing down. No wonder local fans worry their window could soon shut.

Baker is confident his team can stop the D.C. drought.

“I almost ended it in Chicago,” he said. “It’s OK, we’ll end it here, too. We’ll end it here for the whole city.”

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DODGEBALL

Can a crown be bought? Not yet in LA, not by Magic Johnson and his co-owners. They’ve been baseball’s biggest spenders lately, forking over more than $250 million a year in payroll, but there hasn’t been a World Series game at Dodger Stadium since Orel Hershiser closed out Oakland’s Bash Brothers in 1988.

Some people say it’s a shame Clayton Kershaw hasn’t pitched in the Fall Classic. Maybe harsh, but the great ace has been part of the problem — he’s 4-7 (and one mighty save) in the postseason with a 4.55 ERA that’s nearly double his regular-season mark.

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OPERATION VICTORY

The Mets were all set last season to make a pitch for their first championship since 1986. With young aces Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz leading the rotation, what could go wrong?

Instead, an amazin’ string of injuries did surgery to the Mets’ plans. Proving, again, there’s no predicting the health of a ballclub — but it’s a sure bet any team that spends more time in the doctor’s office than on the diamond is sunk.

The Mets will get a great opportunity to assert themselves in the NL East. They start the season with a whopping 32 straight games against division opponents.

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AP freelance writers Chuck King and Jose M. Romero contributed to this report.

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More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

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