Jordan Wicks dazzles in historic MLB debut
Even amongst the optimism Cubs’ fans had for 2021 1st-round pick Jordan Wicks’ major-league debut, the team probably wanted expectations to have been tempered.
And yet, the lefty surpassed them — in dazzling style.
After allowing a home run, a single and a walk — all before registering his first out —rookie Jordan Wicks retired the next 15 batters he faced, striking out 9 and turning in an eye-opening performance in his first outing as a big leaguer as the Cubs beat the Pirates 10-6.
“It was awesome,” Wicks said after the game. “I just tried to keep going out there and throwing up 0s.”
Just 8 pitches into his big-league debut, the much-anticipated debut for Wicks looked rocky — really rocky.
On his second big-league pitch, Ke’Bryan Hayes welcomed Wicks to the majors with a no-doubt home run to left field. Bryan Reynolds followed with a single on the very next pitch and then Andrew McCutchen coaxed a 5-pitch walk.
The situation looked bleak for Wicks and the Cubs, but Tommy Hottovy trotted out of the Cubs’ dugout and met with the rookie and the rest of the infield.
“He just said he wanted to just slow it down a little bit for me, which I appreciated,” Wicks said. “He just reminded me that I was making good pitches. I wasn’t missing by much. He just reminded me, he said ‘Hey, they’re gonna start swinging at those.’ He said, ‘Just stick with what you’re doing, get back in there and keep getting after them.’”
His words were magic.
Wicks struck out the next three batters — he struck out 5 in a row and settled into a groove.
“He wouldn’t be up here if we thought he wasn’t ready for the moment,” manager David Ross said. “And that’s what that entails, just … believing in yourself, being confident in yourself and knowing what you can do on that stage — he never wavered. Again, nice visit from Tommy, get him reset and did a really, really nice job of just settling in.”
Jordan Wicks with a nasty changeup for his first career K! pic.twitter.com/HmMwH7Jm1a— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) August 26, 2023
The Pirates had no answer for Wicks’ changeup.
It was touted as his best pitch, and it didn’t disappoint. The 23-year-old threw the pitch 27 times, induing 9 whiffs, 2 called strikes and 2 fouls. He used the pitch to try and induce hitters to chase, as it landed in the strike zone just 11% of the time. Five of Wicks’ 9 strikeouts came on the changeup, leaving the Pirates stymied time after time after time.
“That was the big message today that I heard from Tommy and Rossy today was just stick to what you do,” Wicks said. “They told me and they just reminded me over and over again, ‘What you do is good enough, that’s why you’re here.’ So that was a real calming message for me today and I really appreciated that. That’s what we tried to do.”
Pittsburgh’s hitters couldn’t put a ball in play on the pitch until the penultimate hitter Wicks faced when Jack Suwinski popped up the pitch to third baseman Jeimer Candelario.
The 15 straight retired by Wicks are the most consecutive batters retired by a Cubs pitcher in their major-league debut. His 9 strikeouts are the second-most by a Cub in their major league debut and it’s also tied for the second-most by a Cubs starter this season.
He exited after the 5th inning, recording the win and allowing just the 1 run on 2 hits and a walk in his debut.
“Man, what a fun night for him,” Ross said. “I thought he kept guys guessing and pounded the heater with the lead. Those are little things that you don’t see in our game as much, just guys being able to come in, ‘I got a big lead and I’m gonna pound the strike zone, be able to mix in secondaries, just cruise from there on out.’ Really impressive performance from a young man.
“That was as good as I’ve seen in awhile from a young starter.”
The Cubs’ offense buoyed Wicks’ outing, too.
They scored 3 runs in the 3rd inning after drawing 4 walks in the frame and then added 5 more runs in the 5th when they sent 10 batters to the plate.
Things got interesting after Wicks left the game.
Hayden Wesneski came in relief and pitched a 1-2-3 6th inning. But in the 7th, Wesneski allowed 3 runs, 4 hits and a walk before being chased from the game with a pair of runners on. Mark Leiter Jr. allowed a double that scored a pair of runs and brought the tying run to the plate. All 5 runs in the frame were charged to Wesneski as Ross had to turn to one of his best relievers in the game.
The Cubs added a pair of runs in the top of the 9th on a 2-run double from Seiya Suzuki that added some cushion for the Cubs. Every hitter in the Cubs lineup reached base.
But the story was Wicks, who turned in a terrific outing in his major-league debut and proved he could fill in the Cubs’ beleaguered rotation as they chase down a playoff spot.
“The focuses are on winning,” Wicks said. “We don’t have time to come up here and try to ease our way into it and get settled in and try to be cute. It’s about putting our team in the best position to win ball games. I love that personally because that’s the way I was raised — play winning baseball. It was all about winning.
“I felt like the people that have coached me from a young age that have brought me in that culture have prepared me for today.”