PITTSBURGH -- It doesn't matter if it's Gerrit Cole in Monday's game or Garrett Richards in Game No. 1 of the season, the Chicago Cubs have used the same formula since Day 1 to produce the best record and run differential in baseball: Raise the pitch count of the opposing starter, sending him to the showers early. But on Monday the Cubs pulled a reversal. Instead of walking themselves to a win, they got timely hitting, with every position player starter -- save Tommy La Stella -- contributing at least one hit in a 7-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Of course five walks also helped, but it was those big hits that made the difference.
Cole left after 4⅔ innings and 105 pitches. It's what the Cubs have done to aces and No. 5 starters alike. And no longer is Chicago weak at the bottom of the order, as David Ross continues to contribute. His key two-out, bases-loaded single in the fifth inning broke open a close game. Entering Monday night, it was the Pirates who led the league in batting average while the Cubs languished in the middle of the pack. After earning 11 hits, including two apiece from Dexter Fowler, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez -- who didn't even start -- maybe they're on the rise.
The Cubs were just 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position, but it was enough to lead them to another easy win. They left 11 men on base but scored seven runs, and that's all that matters for the best team in baseball, which improved to 18-6.