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Marcus Stroman put the Cubs on his back with the performance of the season

1 year agoAndy Martinez

After last week’s 8-inning, 2-run masterpiece against the Mets, Marcus Stroman was still feeling a little greedy, still seeking even more.

“I want a CG more than anything, to be honest with you,” Stroman said.

On Memorial Day, against the best team in baseball and with the Cubs desperate for a win, Stroman got his wish. The righty was nearly flawless, pitching a 1-hit shutout in which he faced just 29 Rays’ batters. Stroman’s best outing of the year gave the Cubs a much-needed, 1-0 victory over baseball’s most potent offense in the Tampa Bay Rays.

“I’m just very thankful and grateful that I can go out there, feel healthy and put my team in a position to win each and every time,” Stroman said after the win. “I mean, going CG at Wrigley, that’s like one of the top moments in my career.”

Stroman carried a no-hit bid into the 7th inning when he allowed a lead-off, bloop single to Wander Franco. But it didn’t faze Stroman. After a walk to Brandon Lowe, he induced a popup to Randy Arozarena and then a double-play groundball to Josh Lowe to end the inning.

No team in baseball has scored more runs, collected more hits or clobbered more home runs than the Rays. None of that mattered to Stroman and his defense.

“Big-time performance from a big-time pitcher,” manager David Ross said. “I mean, what do you say about Stro, right? The story’s there. Putting us on his back. Really good team, really good offense.”

The Cubs needed the win — probably as badly as Stroman wanted the complete game. They had just been swept by the Reds, lost four games in a row and were a season-high 8-games below .500. It was the perfect situation for the Cubs’ ace.

“I just feel like we just needed a stop and kind of to get things rolling,” Stroman said. “I think we’ve been on like a little skid. Not necessarily anything I’m worried about. Like I said, baseball is a game of trends and ups and downs. But I think it should hopefully give us a little momentum knowing that we can play with anyone. Knowing that, like I said, we’re capable of beating any team in the league.”

Amidst the difficult stretch, the Cubs remain firmly in the NL Central and Wild Card mix, sitting 5 and 4 games back, respectively. The season is just under a third of the way through, so is it still too early to look at it that way?

“No, it’s never too early for anything in my opinion, I think we have to play out the season and continue to get better,” Ross said. “Obviously I follow the division and thankfully we’re still not playing our best baseball and things aren’t out of reach, but you can only say that for so long, right? But I’m always really super hyper focused on us and what we’re not doing right, where other teams are taking advantage of us.

“You can’t start worrying about the other team stuff until your stuff is dialed in in every little area and we’re definitely not there.”

Could Monday’s game be the turning point? It’s hard to definitively say that — the Cubs seemingly were poised to go on a roll after taking two of three from the Mets before they were swept by the Reds. But Stroman’s outing is the type that could provide a spark.

Catcher Tucker Barnhart mentioned how simple it can be to begin to press when things aren’t going a team’s way like they have been of late. Monday’s all-around performance — from Stroman leaving it all out on the mound, to the team’s at-bats in the 4th inning that led to Seiya Suzuki’s game-winning run give the Cubs optimism.

“We’re gonna keep battling, keep fighting and at the end of the day, when you look to your left and your right and say you gave everything you had, I think that means so much,” Barnhart said. “I think Stro, obviously, did that today.”

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