And our bullpen has been so strong that our hitters don't need to press and worry about scoring four, five and six runs every day. Another thing that I like about this recent stretch is that we've been led by more than one or two guys -- it's been a real team effort.
In fact, this whole season has been a 25-man effort. That's been the real key to us since Day 1. We obviously have some guys who have posted some great individual numbers -- like they're supposed to -- but on a daily basis it's been somebody different for us day after day, night after night. That's what makes a winning club.
Teams are built around certain guys, of course, but from top to bottom, everyone on our club has helped. Getting to where we are right now has been about 25 men working together.
As a pitcher, you guard against becoming complacent with the knowledge that our offense is going to score runs. You can't take the approach that you don't have to be perfect on a given day. You want to take every pitch you throw and execute to the best of your ability. There are guys on the other side who are paid a lot of money to get on base against you. When it doesn't happen for the offense, the pitching will have to pick up the hitting. It works both ways.
We never take the mound thinking we're going to get seven runs a day. Still, the fact that is does happen so much is a nice luxury. Having a three- or four-run lead means a mistake isn't going to kill you.
But we just don't outslug the other teams. We have superstars, but we also have guys who fill the tough reserve roles, going in cold to pinch-hit or fill in defensively or steal a base. We have players who are very efficient at the little things that matter at the end of the year.
While we didn't advance as far as we would have liked in the playoffs last year, that success has helped us become more confident this year, and we're seeing that translate into success on the field. We've also added some good pieces to the puzzle, which should help us get over the hump.
Based on the way last season ended, maybe there are a few guys in this clubhouse who are playing this season with a chip on their shoulders. We'll take our chances if we get into the playoffs again, though. I like to compete with the guys in this room.
Jason Marquis, a veteran right-hander from Staten Island, N.Y., pitched 6 1/3 innings, allowing just three hits and no earned runs to win his fourth game against the Dodgers on Sunday. At 40-24, the Cubs have the best record in the Majors entering their series with the Braves this week.