CHICAGO -- Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija have each pitched at least six innings in the first three Cubs games, which is a luxury.
The last time Chicago had three straight quality starts to begin a season was 2001, when Jon Lieber, Kerry Wood and Kevin Tapani did so against the Expos.
The streak ended on Monday, as Chris Volstad lasted only five innings, allowing three runs in a 7-5 loss to the Brewers.
"That's a big strength of our team is the starting pitching," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "You knew what you were going to get from Dempster and Garza, and for Samardzija to throw the ball like that was beyond any of our expectations. We knew he had a good spring, besides one hiccup, and [Sunday] it was phenomenal the way he threw the ball and located and got ahead in the counts."
On Sunday, Samardzija went 8 2/3 innings against the Nationals and picked up the win in the longest outing of his career.
"It's impressive," Sveum said of his starters. "We all know that's not going to happen on a daily basis."
There's also some friendly ribbing.
"We have such a good bunch of guys," Sveum said. "It's the way they compete -- and sometimes you do compete against each other, whether it's hitting in [batting practice] or stuff. There's a lot of trash talking. It's fun to listen to them."
On the flip side, the Cubs bullpen has not gotten much work, totaling 4 2/3 innings in three games. It's been 26 years since the bullpen was called so infrequently to open a season. In 1985, Cubs relievers totaled 4 1/3 innings in the first three games.
"You play 162 games and your starters go seven [innings] plus, some guys won't have too many innings when the season's over," Sveum said. "Those days are coming [when relievers are needed]. There's 159 games left and plenty of time for that to happen and it will. You do have to give them some work and give other guys days off. It's a long season."