Cody Bellinger, Marcus Stroman help spark Cubs to needed win over Red Sox
The Cubs are taking this crucial stretch leading into the trade deadline day by day.
And as the adage goes, momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher. When it’s Marcus Stroman, that’s enough energy to carry you into the day. Add in a red-hot Cody Bellinger and it’s the type of recipe that can make a team tick.
“It’s awesome to see Belli back to that MVP Belli,” Stroman said. “I kind of said it in spring training, change of scenery, kind of can be a great thing for guys. He’s still that same player just because you have kind of an up-and-down few years.”
With the Cubs looking to make a climb back to .500 and up the NL Central standings, Stroman picked up right where he left off in the first half, pitching 6 innings of 1-run ball against a hot Red Sox team, allowing just 3 hits and a walk in his league-leading 15th quality start. The Cubs’ offense buoyed Stroman, scoring 10 runs, including 4 on a grand slam from Bellinger in the 3rd inning.
If the Cubs hope to be buyers at the end of the month, they’ll need their 2 co-aces, Stroman and lefty Justin Steele, to continue to pitch like they have all season. And they’ll need Bellinger and the offense to perform like they did. Saturday afternoon was a good first step.
“He’s been more than expected I think just since he’s been here,” manager David Ross said. “Really put a lot of work into the offseason, made some adjustments and to prove the player that he was and he’s proven it.
“It’s just fun to watch.”
Stroman never looked to be in any sort of real trouble — he worked around a 2-out double in the 1st and escaped a first and second, one-out jam with a double play in the 3rd. In the 4th, Stroman allowed a leadoff double to Justin Turner, then induced 3 straight groundball outs that plated the run, but the Cubs’ offense had staked him to a 6-run lead by then. It was a vintage Stroman outing.
Bellinger paced the offense, going 2-for-3 with his 8th career grand slam and a 7th-inning single. Like Stroman and Steele on the pitching side, Bellinger has been a boost to the Cubs’ offense. He provides a strong left-handed bat with power, something the team doesn’t have elsewhere.
Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer has mentioned the team’s lack of clutch hitting and pitching as part of the reason why the team hasn’t performed to their expected statistics. The Cubs are 11th in baseball in on-base percentage but rank 21st in slugging. Bellinger helps solve many of those issues — he leads the team in OPS against left-handed pitching (1.100), ranks third on the team in home runs and is second on the team in slugging percentage behind Christopher Morel.
And Bellinger has been on a tear since he returned from the IL. Since being activated off the IL on June 15, he’s slashing .366/.407/.598 with 5 home runs and 15 RBI.
“Every time you face a lineup that has Belli in it, it’s in the back of your head that you have to get to that spot that Belli’s in,” Stroman said. “And regardless of where he’s at, no one wants to face Belli because they know the type of individual he is in the box. And they know that with one swing, he can change the game.
“So, to see him locked in is incredible.”
It’s the type of run that can spark the Cubs back up the NL Central standings.
“You can tell he’s just happy,” Stroman said. “He’s very comfortable. He feels like he’s at home.”