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Drew Smyly’s struggles as starter continue in Cubs’ loss

10 months agoAndy Martinez

The Cubs were cautiously optimistic that Drew Smyly’s stint in the bullpen would help him right the ship.

Andy Ibáñez and the Tigers needed just 6 pitches to stymie any positive vibes for Smyly’s return to the rotation. Ibáñez hit a solo home run — his first of 2 homers off the lefty — as Detroit scored 7 runs on 8 hits in 3.2 innings against Smyly en route to an 8-6 win.

In three relief outings before Tuesday’s start in Detroit, the lefty had pitched 3 scoreless innings, allowing just 2 hits and striking out 3.

“I think the short outings can really build your confidence in good outings,” manager David Ross said before the game. “It’s [a] small sample, but just being able to build off that and get a little bit confidence, that rhythm coming out of the ‘pen knowing that you can empty the tank and you don’t have to conserve anything — I think that’s just a little bit of, hopefully, a momentum boost and a confidence boost that he can carry into today.”

That wasn’t the case for Smyly. He allowed a pair of runs in the 1st inning and another in the 2nd, putting the Cubs’ offense behind early. They rallied in the top of the 4th with a pair of home runs from Dansby Swanson and Jeimer Candelario to give them the lead.

But the Tigers pounced on Smyly immediately.

Three of the first four hitters reached in the bottom half of the frame before Ibáñez hit his second homer of the game — a 3-run shot to give the Tigers a lead they would not relinquish.

“My command wasn’t very good, I wasn’t that aggressive,” Smyly said. “I’d love to pitch better. The team needs me. I need to pitch better.”

Hayden Wesneski pitched 2.1 scoreless innings in relief of Smyly, striking out 5.

The Cubs continue to face a conundrum with their rotation. After the injury to Marcus Stroman, they were left with 4 starters, forcing Smyly back into the starting mix. As they look to push for a playoff spot, Smyly’s struggles are magnified. 

“Well who takes his spot in the rotation is the question, right?” Ross said after the game. “He’s in there cause we’re just a little short-handed right now. It’s his first start back. Let’s give him a little bit of grace. I don’t know that we have anybody waiting in line that we feel like is some dominant force.”

How the Cubs proceed with the last rotation spot will be one of the — if not the biggest — storyline to follow down the stretch.

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