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Pirates get best of former teammate Trevor Williams

3 years agoAndy Martinez

Tommy Hottovy came away impressed after Trevor Williams’ first start of the year – and it wasn’t just because of the 5 perfect innings he threw to start the ball game.

Williams’ father, Rich, who grew up a Cubs fan at worked at Wrigley Field, was at the Friendly Confines for his Cubs’ debut.

“His ability to go out and slow everything down and just go execute, I think it’s testament to who he is,” Hottovy said.

So, Hottovy had belief that he could do that in another emotional game for Williams as he started against his former team the Pirates. Unfortunately for Hottovy, Williams and the Cubs, the Pirates got to their former teammate, chasing him from the game after 3.1 innings of work as the Pirates beat the Cubs 7-1 in the series finale in Pittsburgh.

“It was a special day,” Williams said. “But other than that, when I’m reviewing the game of what pitches I executed, what pitches I didn’t execute, it was really baseball’s a game of inches.” 

For Williams and the Cubs, it was déjà vu in the sense that the Pirates did their damage in the 2nd inning for the second day in a row. The Pirates brought 8 hitters to the plate in the inning, scoring 3 runs off Williams in the inning. The Pirates collected 4 hits to open the inning and staked a lead they would not relinquish.

“Just looked like he felt behind especially on a couple of batters and got into hitter’s counts,” David Ross said. “Just looked like they found a way to get to him today especially after he fell behind.”

On Sunday afternoon, the Pirates hitters had more success at making contact against him than the Brewers did in Williams’ first outing. Against the Brewers, Williams produced 17 swings and misses, but on Sunday, Williams induced just 5 swings and misses.

“I felt like I was getting behind to the right guys and then getting ahead to the guys that we didn’t want beating us,” Williams said. “I think today was mainly just baseball’s a game of inches. It felt like when we were beating guys, it was just out of reach of certain guys in the field and then when I did miss an executed pitch, it was hammered. Other than that, would I have liked to get ahead more? Sure, but I think we were pitching around the right guys in that instance.” 

Williams permitted another run in the 3rd inning, then allowed 3 straight singles to open the 4th and induced a fielder’s choice before his day was over.

Ross, Cubs keeping things in perspective

It’s been a tough start for the Cubs offense in 2021, but Ross and the Cubs are reminding themselves that it’s still early in the season. Last year in a 60-game season, it was almost natural to fret over a stretch of bad games. Ross and the Cubs are trying to strike that balance this season.

“I think that’s the hard part is you wanna be locked in from the get-go and some guys had really good springs and hadn’t had a lot of success early on, but I think we all know what kind of hitters these guys are and their potential,” Ross said. “You do have to have some patience and understand that there’s a long season ahead of us, but you wanna have success, too. It’s frustrating not to get hits. It’s frustrating to compete and fail.”

There were sparks of the offense finding some momentum in Pittsburgh. They had 19 hits in the first two games of the series and had scoring opportunities throughout Sunday’s loss.

“I think, we’re about a week in now, we’ve seen some flashes of some of the offense that we think is in there,” Ross said. “We’ve had some days where you just kind of feel like they’re still searching for a little bit or some different guys are searching. But there’s a lot of positives that are going throughout the game. We gotta stay on the attack.”

Cubs impressed with Mills

One highlight from Saturday night’s loss to the Pirates was Alec Mills once again showing his versatility in the Cubs pitching staff. Last week, Mills picked up the second save of his career, pitching a perfect 9th inning in the Cubs’ 5-3 win over the Brewers.

Saturday, Mills pitched 2.1 innings of relief after Zach Davies lasted just 1.2 innings.

“I said this, kinda before the season, a guy like Alec Mills, you can look back at the end of the year and say a guy like him was gonna be the MVP of our pitching staff,” Hottovy said of Mills. “The versatility and value he provides is enormous. When you have guys like him, that can do that, that are unselfish, that just want the ability to pitch and compete and give your team a chance to win, that’s why you fight for guys like that.”

It’s a role that isn’t easy. Last season, Mills spent the entire season in the rotation and had grown into a routine for the season. This year, being thrown into the bullpen, that schedule was changed.

“One thing people maybe don’t realize is how mentally turned on you have to be every single day,” Hottovy said. “When you’re a starter, you’re mentally turned on for the two hours of work that you’re putting in that day or maybe you have your bullpen, so you’re really locked in, but then when the game comes, you’re kind of like watching the game, you’re relaxed. For a reliever, most of the time, guys are available every day.

“Just the mental side, the mental grind of being available every single day is definitely an adjustment for guys, just to be ready every day. He wants the ball. He wants to compete.”

Injury update

Hottovy provided injury updates on Rowan Wick and Jonathan Holder, who signed a one-year deal with the Cubs in the offseason.

Holder started the season on the 10-day injured list with a right shoulder strain and Wick missed all of spring training with a left oblique strain that forced him to also start the season on the 10-day injured list.

“I think with Rowan, he’s throwing bullpens, he threw a 35-pitch bullpen the other day,” Hottovy said. “Really still trying to take it day to day and make sure he’s recovering and getting the work in he needs.

“With Jonathan, he’s kind of in a similar boat. Kind of built up to some bullpens and was feeling good but didn’t feel like he was recovering in the same way, either.”

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