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The Pirates' sticks haven't much fazed the Cubs this season. They've scored 13 runs while going 1-5 against their National League Central foes.And the stones they've thrown have resulted in 38 runs for the Cubs. So don't expect the Pirates' words —...

First-place Cubs won't get involved in war of words with division rivals

The Pirates' sticks haven't much fazed the Cubs this season. They've scored 13 runs while going 1-5 against their National League Central foes.And the stones they've thrown have resulted in 38 runs for the Cubs. So don't expect the Pirates' words —...

 First-place Cubs won't get involved in war of words with division rivals

The Pirates' sticks haven't much fazed the Cubs this season. They've scored 13 runs while going 1-5 against their National League Central foes.

And the stones they've thrown have resulted in 38 runs for the Cubs.

So don't expect the Pirates' words — or anybody else's — to hurt the North Siders.

After all, embracing the target, as manager Joe Maddon often preaches to his team to do, comes with embracing the hate that sometimes comes with success.

At 27-9, the Cubs boast baseball's best record — not to mention an eight-game lead over the Pirates and Cardinals entering Monday. They are 15-3 in the division, with upcoming trips to Milwaukee and St. Louis sandwiched around a stop in San Francisco.

So what if Gerrit Cole doesn't think they're the best team in baseball, as he said Sunday after pitching the Pirates to a 2-1 victory at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs, Maddon said, are going to do the Cubs. The man who believes in mental coaches doesn't believe in mental games.

What Gerrit Cole's words about the Cubs really say about the Pirates

Asked about salvaging one game in Wrigley Field on Sunday, Pirates starter Gerrit Cole said he doesn’t think the Cubs are the "best team in baseball."

Yes. Well. The Cubs do have the best record in baseball, Gerrit. They also lead your team by eight games, Gerrit. Oh, and they had beaten your team...

Asked about salvaging one game in Wrigley Field on Sunday, Pirates starter Gerrit Cole said he doesn’t think the Cubs are the "best team in baseball."

Yes. Well. The Cubs do have the best record in baseball, Gerrit. They also lead your team by eight games, Gerrit. Oh, and they had beaten your team...

Read the column

"To get caught up in that kind of rhetoric, to me, is counterproductive," Maddon said before Sunday's game in response to another Pirates pitcher's words. "I'm not going to go there.

"Everybody processes the moment differently. All I know is I'm really proud of the way we get prepared to play every day. That's what I'm focused on."

But what of Jeff Locke's words? Saturday's Pirates starter suggested Jake Arrieta might have purposely hit Jung Ho Kang in the back during the Cubs' 8-2 victory.

"That one didn't just spin away," Locke said. "He's been pretty sharp all year. Maybe that one got away from him in. ... It got him pretty (flush) though, and it just seems that a guy like that, with pinpoint accuracy that he has, doesn't just miss in."

Eight words were enough for Arrieta's response on Twitter on Sunday: "If I hit someone intentionally, you will know."

Cubs catcher Miguel Montero — whom Locke later hit, prompting umpires to warn both benches — called the accusation "stupid."

Locke might have forgotten that earlier in the game, Arrieta walked Locke on four pitches.

"It's not ideal," Arrieta said.

Or that of the 45 walks Arrieta has issued in his last 203 innings, 16 have come in his last five starts. Kang was the first batter Arrieta has hit this season. He also threw a wild pitch during the same at-bat.

Nobody is perfect.

But Arrieta, who is 23-1 with an 0.98 ERA and 202 strikeouts in those 203 innings he has pitched since June 21, is far from nobody. That can make him the target of frustrated opponents.

Maddon went so far as to say the Cy Young Award winner has a "Cyborg look about him."

"When you watch him out there, I can see Arnold Schwarzenegger at his best, just going through this pitching motion, pitches exactly where he wants all the time," Maddon said. "But even Arnold messed up a couple times in 'Terminator.'

"I think he would have been more Arnold Schwarzenegger-esque had it been intentional."

The Cubs have been flexing their muscle plenty this season. It's the middle of May; 126 regular-season games remain.

This team seems to be looking forward to every one, even if not everyone is looking forward to the Cubs.

"We've put ourselves in that spotlight," shortstop Addison Russell said. "That's a good thing. We see each other grow, day in and day out. It's just an awesome thing to be a part of."

The Cubs have made no bones about the sticks and stones — or the words — that have come along with it.

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Twitter @ChiTribSkrbina

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