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Cubs’ offensive approach stands out in series victory against Pirates

The Cubs drew 14 walks during their opening series, including seven in a 4-3 victory Sunday.

The Cubs’ Ian Happ rounds the bases after homering against the Pirates on Sunday.
The Cubs’ Ian Happ rounds the bases after homering against the Pirates on Sunday.
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

The Cubs’ offense will make opposing pitchers work when it’s going right. After an Opening Day to forget Thursday, the lineup has begun to look more like the one many expect it to be.

Still, the lineup isn’t a finished product, and it’ll be a while before any determination can be made about what the offense will be.

Nonetheless, the Cubs showed some offensive characteristics in their 4-3 victory Sunday and throughout their season-opening series against the Pirates that haven’t been around in some time.

‘‘I think, for the offense, it was nice to score some runs,’’ manager David Ross said. ‘‘We ran the bases really well. I think we played a really well-rounded series, to be honest with you, after that first day. . . . I thought we had good at-bats. I think this is the team that I would envision us being up to this point, for sure.’’

During the last few seasons, one of the biggest knocks against the Cubs has been their reliance on home runs to score. Homers are important and successful teams usually hit the ball out of the ballpark, but being able to score without the long ball — or without as many — is a trait teams that make it to the postseason have, too. The Cubs were able to do both in the first series of 2021.

The Cubs manufactured two runs in the first inning Sunday after walks to Ian Happ and Anthony Rizzo. Kris Bryant lined a single to right to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead before an RBI single by Joc Pederson made it 2-0.

But they showed some power, too, as Happ’s 428-foot solo homer in the third extended the lead.

‘‘I think the whole series was a display of how we can produce runs when everything’s not firing on all cylinders,’’ Happ said. ‘‘I think today was a good example. KB driving that run in early, then us kind of producing and Joc getting a guy over. [On Saturday], we moved guys into scoring position. We had some sac flies. We did on Opening Day, just not enough.

‘‘So I think we can produce runs when things aren’t completely firing and we’re not launching doubles or balls out of the yard on a consistent basis. I think it’s just a testament to how deep the lineup is.’’

One of the Cubs’ strengths, when their lineup is going right, is their ability to get on base. They drew 14 walks during the three-game series and forced Pirates starter Mitch Keller from the game early Sunday after getting his pitch count to 77 in three innings.

Such an approach in a 162-game season could mean a lot for the Cubs’ run production.

‘‘I think the emphasis for us is to just be yourself [at the plate],’’ Ross said. ‘‘I think guys are going up, having their at-bat, recognizing what they’re trying to do and what the opponent is trying to do to them. I think it’s just a product of a really good approach. Each individual guy is going out there and having their plan and trying to execute that.

‘‘I think we’ve done a really good job so far. We’ve got a long season ahead of us, and there’s gonna be some different things that come and go. So as long as they’re going out there and having their approach and continuing to have their plan against that guy that day, I’m going to be fine with that.’’