Cubs grind out win as team sorts through pitching picture
When the Cubs decided to fold Marcus Stroman back into the rotation, they envisioned things going a bit differently.
The goal was for the veteran right-hander to be able to provide some length as he works his way back to full strength. And in the process, the Cubs were betting on the track record and believed a good outcome was in store.
It didn’t go according to the script, as Stroman surrendered 3 runs in 3 innings of work Saturday, but the Cubs will managed to gut out a 6-3 victory over the Rockies at Wrigley Field.
Stroman needed 64 pitches to get 9 outs, allowing 5 hits (including 3 doubles) and a walk.
“It felt good to be back,” Stroman said. “It’s definitely a good feeling to be back in the routine and feel the energy of the crowd. I felt pretty good. I felt like I didn’t make some quality pitches in the 2nd inning but overall for not being out there for a while, I felt really good.
“I felt like I was able to make some pitches when I needed to. I felt like my mechanics just came and went at times but overall I felt a little better than I thought I’d feel.”
Javier Assad — who took Stroman’s spot in the rotation when the veteran landed on the IL in early August — transitioned back to the bullpen and saved the Cubs with a dominant effort.
Assad came in after Stroman and threw 4 shutout innings with 6 strikeouts.
“He’s so valuable to this team and the versatility it gives you being able to get Stro started,” David Ross said. “… He’s done a really good job of that pretty consistently this year. Having him in the bullpen is such a weapon. Not getting his pitch count up too high, that was really, really nice to see. He was huge.”
Stroman was one of the best pitchers in baseball in the first half of the season (2.28 ERA) but struggled for a month before landing on the IL.
When he returned last week, he made a pair of appearances as a reliever and the Cubs were expecting to utilize him out of the bullpen for the remainder of the season.
But things changed this past week. Stroman got up in the Cubs bullpen in Wednesday’s loss to the Pirates but never got into the game. The Cubs ended up treating that as an opportunity to get him further stretched out and he was subsequently unavailable for Thursday’s contest.
“We’re trying to maximize his innings and figured he would be able to pitch some leverage coming back without being stretched out,” Ross said. “A few days ago, got him up hot, hoping the score would change. It didn’t.
“Didn’t use him as leverage, so we used that as a bullpen, gave him a day off and figured he’d start and pitch as much leverage innings as we could possibly get out of him.”
The Cubs plan to keep Stroman in the rotation moving forward and he will have at least one more start in the regular season.
The plan is also to keep Assad in the bullpen as a potential long reliever, but at this point, it’s an all hands on deck situation for the Cubs. Only 7 games remain on the schedule and the team is narrowly holding on to the final NL playoff spot.
“I’m not gonna stay away from Javy,” Ross said. “He’ll have these two days off, he’ll be down tomorrow and he’ll be off on the off-day. That’s a weapon. We’re gonna go for wins when we’ve got ‘em and figure it out each and every day.”
The performance from Assad Saturday allowed the Cubs offense to climb back into the game and secure an important victory.
After an Ian Happ RBI double in the 1st inning, the offense was slow to respond but eventually put up runs in the final 4 innings.
Miles Mastrobuoni reached base 3 times and scored a run. With the team’s injuries at third base, he has been thrust into action, starting 4 games in a row. In that time, Mastrobuoni has 8 hits, 5 runs scored and 2 stolen bases.
“I’m so proud of Miles and the adversity he went through early on, being a role player, getting some opportunity, not getting off to the start he wanted,” Ross said. “Came back, played great, really well for us. Good defense, positive energy, worked his tail off and then got sent down when Nick [Madrigal] came back.
“… He’s playing really good baseball for us. He’s a good baseball player. He’s a hard-nosed, gritty guy that you love to have on your team. He’s been really patient and worked his tail off and deserves all that’s coming to him.”
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