The Cubs' homegrown, American League-style lineup flexed its muscles once again.
The Cubs (63-48) ate away at the Milwaukee Brewers (48-66) pitching staff Tuesday, taking down their division rivals, 6-3, in front of 37,109 fans at Wrigley Field for the series opener. It was Chicago's fifth straight win and 11th in the last 12 games.
The Cubs lead Major League Baseball in pitches per plate appearance and continued their assault on opposing starting pitchers, chasing Brewers starter Taylor Jungmann after just 2.2 innings and forcing the rookie to throw 81 pitches.
It was the eighth straight game in which the opposing pitcher has failed to get through six innings against this Cubs lineup.
"I love the tenacity of the at-bat," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "That's what I've been talking about. It continues to get better.
"I was really pleased with our whole approach to the game after a day off. ... I like those little moments that are occurring right now where guys are showing up and they're ready to play."
The Cubs worked seven walks on the evening as they saw 186 pitches in their eight innings on offense.
"It's just a matter of us grinding at-bats and grinding through the season," Anthony Rizzo said. "Hitting is very contagious, so it's kinda just passing that back to the next guy.
"The beauty of our lineup is we have a pretty lengthy lineup there where any given guy can do it."
This game had all the makings of a blowout early, as the Cubs scored three times in the second inning, once in the fourth and two more times in the fifth, aided by three Brewers errors and seven free passes (six walks, one HBP).
But that was it for the Cubs offense while the Brewers chipped away with a solo run in the fourth and then an Adam Lind two-run homer in the sixth off Cubs starter Dan Haren.
Haren was pulled two batters later, but still got the win - his first as a Cub and 150th of his career - as the Cubs bullpen shut the door the rest of the way.
"I put pretty much all personal things aside," Haren said. "I got a few weeks left here and I really do wanna do the best I can for the team. I've been so impressed in the first 10 days or so with the overall vibe in the clubhouse."
Haren also said he's been shocked by how much the Cubs offense has grown since pitched against them - and beat them - June 3 in Miami.
In that game, Haren threw only 88 pitches in 5.2 innings against a Cubs lineup that had no Jorge Soler (disabled list) or Kyle Schwarber (still in the minors).
"I see a complete difference," Haren said. "Facing them this year, they were a really aggressive team."
[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans]
Starlin Castro finally got into a game for the Cubs after being benched for the last three contests, appearing at second base for the first time in his big-league career and popping out to first in his only at-bat in the eighth inning. He also made a highlight-reel catch in foul territory down the right field line in the ninth inning.
"I thought [that play] was great," Maddon said. "His attitude has been fabulous. To make that among the bullpen with the crap on the ground and guys flying all over the place and there's no room left and it's at night, it's different.
"That was a spectacular play right there."
Castro's play helped seal the victory for the Cubs, who moved to 15 games over .500, something of a benchmark for any team, let alone a young team featuring four rookies in the everyday lineup.
The Cubs allowed themselves to enjoy the nice checkpoint, but also warned that it's too early to scoreboard-watch.
"Keep it rolling," Maddon said. "The next goal is 20. Really proud of our guys and the way they're going about our business."
"It means a lot," Rizzo said, "but we gotta keep winning. All these wins build up, build our confidence, build the character of this team, helps all of us out."