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Cubs patiently, nonchalantly reach another milestone

The Cubs are now 15 games over .500 and just 2½ games behind the Pirates for the top wild-card spot. Caylor Arnold/USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO -- It took the Chicago Cubs about two months to reach 10 games over .500. It took them exactly five days to get to 15.

"By fives," manager Joe Maddon said after his team's latest win, which improved Chicago's record to 63-48. "We went 5, 10, now 15. Keep it rolling. The next one is 20."

Maddon said that kind of nonchalantly after the Cubs -- also kind of nonchalantly -- took care of business against the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday night, 6-3. It wasn't long ago that nothing came easy to the Cubs, especially on offense, but things have changed over the past few weeks. What was a grind has turned into a lot of fun at the plate.

"It was like my old '65 Plymouth that Uncle Chuck used to drive all the time that didn't want to turn over," Maddon stated. "Then all of a sudden it turned over ... guys starting to feel it a little bit."

Tuesday's win was a great example of how far the offense has come. Consider, both the Cubs and Brewers had seven hits in the game. But Milwaukee threw 186 pitches to the Cubs' 132. It resulted in a short outing for Brewers starter Taylor Jungmann, as well as seven walks to go along with three hit-by-pitches for the Cubs. Chicago scored via hit, sacrifice fly, catcher error, a walk with the bases loaded, and a hit-by-pitch with the bases loaded. A balk with a man on third was about the only thing missing. Maddon was asked if it was surprising that such a young team was finding such patience at the plate.

"If it's part of their DNA, that's how they were drafted and signed," he said. "It's difficult to make somebody like that, but if they come equipped, that's what you can expect."

It's the exact same thing the front office has echoed for years. Patient hitters aren't made, they're found -- either through the draft or free agency. The Cubs seem to have a plethora of them moving in the right direction. It's a far cry from the first half.

"I see a complete difference," Tuesday's winning pitcher Dan Haren said. "Facing them this year, they were a really aggressive team. I thought there were some guys with more holes."

Haren first saw the Cubs in the middle of their offensive grind, back in June when he faced them as a member of the Miami Marlins. Their on-base percentage that month was .319, good for ninth in the National League. Since Haren arrived on July 31, the Cubs rank second in that category with a .359 mark.

"We worked good at-bats," Maddon said. "I love the tenacity of the at-bat. It continues to get better."

Of all the hitters receiving accolades lately, Haren singled out one veteran who has quietly made a difference in the second half. Leadoff man Dexter Fowler has an on-base percentage of .415 since the break, igniting an offense which has scored four or more runs in 10 of 11 games.

"I've been really impressed with him," Haren said. "Up and down the lineup, everyone has been impressive."

The Cubs drew within 2½ games of the Pittsburgh Pirates for the first wild-card spot in the NL, and have the offense to thank for their current run. Haren was staked to a 4-0 lead Tuesday and had little issue holding it until help arrived from the bullpen.

It wasn't a fancy win full of home runs and big hits, but it was a win nonetheless. The Cubs wore down the opposition on the mound, as winning has become business as usual at Wrigley Field these days. The Brewers were just Tuesday's victim. Nothing more, nothing less. And Haren is feeling the same vibe the entire city of Chicago is feeling. It's a good one.

"I've been on eight teams, I've just been really impressed by it," he said.