Buoyed by starting pitching, Cubs still looking to be more well-rounded
BY TONI GINNETTI email@example.com May 19, 2013 9:17PM
CHICAGO, IL- MAY 19: Starting pitcher Travis Wood #37 of the Chicago Cubs reacts after giving up a two-run home run to Juan Lagares #12 of the New York Mets scoring Ruben Tejada #11 during the seventh inning on May 19, 2013 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
Updated: May 19, 2013 9:42PM
The San Francisco Giants have won two of the last three World Series on the strength of dominating pitching.
Starting pitching is the best component 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 [the starters] have done is given us a chance in almost every game. The one thing we haven’t had is hitting with runners in scoring position [down to .215] to get that fourth and fifth run in.’’
In the last nine games, the Cubs have hit .333 (26-for-78) with runners in scoring position. That average had been .368 in the previous eight games before a 1-for-10 effort Sunday.
Cubs pitchers are holding the opposition to a .252 average with runners in scoring position.
Leading the way
David DeJesus has been on a hot streak, hitting .330 (38-115) in the last 34 games with 10 doubles, a triple, five home runs, 15 RBI, 13 walks and 24 runs scored.
He also is among the leaders in pitches 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 plus 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.
The Cubs are expected to designate right-handed reliever Michael Bowden for assignment Tuesday, when Matt Garza will be activated. Bowden has pitched well enough with a 3.78 ERA, but right-hander Carlos Villanueva is moving to the bullpen.