Yes, I'll stop using the puns on Tsuyoshi Wada's name eventually... but not yet, especially not on the day after he posted his first big-league victory, a 4-1 Cubs win over the Rockies on yet another chilly night at Wrigley Field that felt more like October than July. If only actual October baseball would come to the North Side. Soon, we hope. The cool weather likely kept many of the announced 29,702 away from the ballpark, as Wrigley Field appeared only about half full.
Wada, who was signed out of Japan in 2012 by the Baltimore Orioles only to have his big-league career derailed by Tommy John surgery, came on board with the Cubs on a minor-league deal last winter. After pitching quite well at Triple-A Iowa, he got his opportunity with the Cubs, and before Monday had one decent start and one not-so-good one... but Monday he showed all of us why the Orioles and then the Cubs took a chance on him, despite his age (now 33).
Wada doesn't have great velocity. On Wrigley Field's pitch-speed board he touched 90 miles per hour only a handful of times during Monday's win. But he moved the ball around the zone effectively and threw strikes, which is how he succeeded at Iowa (where he walked 2.8 per nine innings) and also in Japan (2.5 BB/9 ratio). Monday night, he issued just one walk, a leadoff pass to Ben Paulsen in the seventh. Paulson was immediately erased on a double play. Wada worked quickly, too, something you know I appreciate. I didn't quite understand why Rick Renteria lifted him after sending him out to start the eighth inning; the Rockies had sent up lefthanded hitter Corey Dickerson as a pinch-hitter and Wada was at 97 pitches (61 strikes). He certainly could have faced Dickerson; instead James Russell was summoned and immediately gave up a single.
Meanwhile, the Cubs pushed across two runs in the fourth inning on a night not conducive to hitting; two or three balls hit would likely have been in the seats on another day, but the ball was simply not carrying Monday. Emilio Bonifacio, probably auditioning for scouts from whatever team he's going to be playing for next week, singled and was doubled in by Arismendy Alcantara. Alcantara took third on a groundout and scored on a sacrifice fly.
Wada's good pitching, and fine relief work by Pedro Strop (bailing Russell out) and Hector Rondon (13th save) would have made that run total enough. The Cubs tacked on two more in the eighth inning and it could have been more except for two good defensive plays by the Rockies. They picked Nate Schierholtz (who had singled and advanced to third on a Bonifacio double) off third base. Schierholtz was ruled safe on the field, but review overturned that. Then Starlin Castro was robbed of what would have been an RBI single on a diving stop by shortstop Charlie Culberson, who turned it into an inning-ending double play.
The Rockies aren't a very good team, especially with several of their starting players (among them Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Cuddyer) on the disabled list, but neither are the Cubs. The Cubs simply had more hits are opportune times than the Rockies did Monday night. Wada, if he can continue to pitch like this, could still be in the mix for a future Cubs rotation slot.
BCB's Erik Peterson sat in the bleachers with his wife and family Monday night. I told him since the Cubs won, he's got to come back every day. He might not do that, but I certainly will, and I'll be there again Tuesday night when Edwin Jackson (sigh) takes the mound against Colorado's Jorge De La Rosa.