The San Francisco Giants have won two of the last three World Series on the strength of dominating pitching--the baseball component every manager wants most.
Starting pitching is the best component now for the Cubs, who still must improve defensively and hit more productively.
``There's no question that's where it all starts,'' manager Dale Sveum said. ``You can use the Giants as an example and how deep their starters go in the game. There are so many different matchups you can do [at the end of games] when you get through those first seven innings, so many ways you can shorten the game.
``And when your bullpen sets up the way it is, it's a nice thing to have in your back pocket.
``What these guys have done is given us a chance in almost every game,'' Sveum said of the rotation. ``The one thing we haven't had is hitting with runners in scoring position [third worst in baseball at .218], to get that fourth and fifth run in, but those things are starting to pick up.''
In the last eight games, the Cubs have hit .368 (25-58) with runners in scoring position.
Cubs pitching is holding the opposition to a .252 average with runners in scoring position.
LEADING THE WAY
David DeJesus has been on a hot streak, hitting .324 (36-111) in the last 33 games with nine doubles, a triple, five home runs, 15 RBI, 13 walks and 24 runs scored.
He also is among the leaders in how many pitches he sees per at-bat (4.9).
``It seems like he sees at least seven,'' Sveum said. ``You're talking about one of the better leadoff hitters in the game. You can't ask for much more than his OPS [on base/slugging percentage--now at .861].''
AGE IS A NUMBER
Sveum takes issue with calling the Cubs a young team. ``We have a couple young players but you have guys who have played 300 to 400 major league games,'' he said. ``Everyone but [Anthony] Rizzo has three or four years in the majors and some in the minors under their belts.''
Starlin Castro, 23, is the team's youngest player but is in his fourth major league season.
Prospect Jorge Soler is hitting .643 (9-for-14) in his last three games, with a double, home run, five runs scored and two RBI at Class A Daytona. He is hitting .303 overall.