Road runners: Cubs even more impressive away from home in early going

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CINCINNATI – It’s only three weeks into the season, but the Cubs are starting to do things they haven’t done in close to a decade – and poised for something they haven’t done in 20 years.

Off to their best 17-game start since 2008, the Cubs on Sunday won another road series by beating the Cincinnati Reds 5-2.

That makes three road series so far without losing one (won two of three in Colorado and split four in Pittsburgh). The last time they did that was 2006.

The last time they opened with a road stretch of undefeated series longer than that was 1995, when they didn’t lose one until June.

Extra-inning victories, such as Friday’s, and road wins – “that’s always been my measuring stick of a good team,” manager Joe Maddon said over the weekend in Cincinnati.

“I’m telling you the energy pregame in the dugout is outstanding,” he said. “The guys are definitely on top of things. They’re ready to play. As a manager that’s all you can ask for.”

Sunday’s winning pitcher, Jake Arrieta (3-1) said it’s the blend of the “polished” 25-and-under group and the new veterans added this year that have added up to the good start.

“[Anthony] Rizzo’s made huge strides as a leader, as a player,” Arrieta said of the National League’s on-base percentage leader. “And [Starlin] Castro’s come a long way. If everyone continues to take that step, we can win at a high clop on the road. And at home.

“I think it’s all starting to come together for us.”

THE QUOTE: Maddon on shortstop Starlin Castro’s rediscovered aggressiveness on the bases and in the field – including a spectacular diving play to hole in the sixth inning that he finished with a throw from the ground to get Brandon Boesch on a close play:

“If there’s a good baseball karma, he’s created that for himself right now by the way he’s gone about his business.”

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