Who knew it would be this easy?
Just sign a kid out of Venezuela, wait six years through multiple injuries, then...
Oh, wait. It’s not that easy. But it does appear the Cubs have a keeper in Adbert Alzolay, who threw four outstanding innings in his major-league debut as the Cubs won the opener of a four-game series over the Mets 7-4.
Alzolay’s excellent outing raised this question:
Reminder that this guy could've just started the game.— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) June 21, 2019
Indeed. I’ll get back to that later, but let’s rewind to the beginning of this game, which was started by Tyler Chatwood. Chatwood gave up hits to the first two hitters he faced, but got out of the inning with a double play and a weak grounder in front of the plate. So, yay? He didn’t walk anyone, which is... an improvement.
The Mets took a 1-0 lead in the second without a hit on a hit batter, a throwing error by Chatwood, a walk and another double play. That wasn’t optimal, but the DP, at least, limited the damage. The lead was extended to 3-0 in the third on a leadoff single and two-run homer by Peter Alonso. There’s really no shame in that, as Alonso is currently second in the N.L. in home runs to last year’s MVP Christian Yelich and also stands just one homer short of the Mets’ rookie record, set by Darryl Strawberry in 1983. (He can wait to break that until next week, thankyouverymuch.) Alonso has homered off some pretty good pitchers this year, too — Patrick Corbin, Madison Bumgarner, Walker Buehler. Good-looking player.
The Cubs made short work of that in the bottom of the third in a tremendous display of offense and RISP hitting and putting a crooked number on the board without the benefit of a homer.
Carlos Gonzalez led off with a single and was sacrificed to second by Chatwood. Daniel Descalso, who entered the game in a 1-for-19 slump, batted next [VIDEO].
That made it 3-1. Kyle Schwarber walked and Kris Bryant put another run on the board [VIDEO].
Anthony Rizzo gave the Cubs the lead on the next pitch [VIDEO].
I hope that gives you an idea of how quickly that happened — couldn’t have taken more than two or three minutes after the Schwarber walk. Javier Baez was next, and he extended the lead to two runs [VIDEO].
Baez later scored on a wild pitch, and the Cubs had a six-run inning and a three-run lead.
Chatwood gave up two more hits in the fourth, but induced his third double-play ball in four innings. He took the at-bat in the fourth, presumably to save bench players for later in the game, and drew a walk before he was lifted for Alzolay.
Chatwood... I dunno, man. The outing wasn’t awful, he walked only one, which is a distinct improvement. But he allowed six hits, most of which were hard-hit, and Alonso’s homer. Maybe he goes longer if he doesn’t make the throwing error, which extended the second inning.
But after watching Alzolay throw, I’d certainly give the Cubs rookie another chance, presumably as a starter. Or:
If you want to do an opener with Cishek or Strop or something, then go with Alzolay, that makes sense too. I just don't like starting Chatwood or Montgomery, for example.— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) June 21, 2019
He’s got a point. Alzolay had a fastball with velocity and movement and good breaking pitches and he mixed them up to good effect. Here’s his first career strikeout [VIDEO], of Michael Conforto to end the fifth inning.
He faced Alonso twice. Chatwood gave up two hits to Alonso, but Alzolay walked him once and struck him out, one of five Ks he had in his debut. At one point he retired 11 straight Mets. He had some defensive help from Descalso in the eighth [VIDEO].
The Cubs had previously scored one more run thanks to Javy in the bottom of the seventh [VIDEO].
That pitch... how does he hit that? It was on the lower, outside corner of the plate, and he hit it a long way:
#Mets 3 @ #Cubs 7 [B7-1o]:— Home Run Tracker (@DingerTracker) June 21, 2019
Javier Báez homers (18): fly ball to CF (solo)
Hit: 403.56ft, 103.55mph, 22.21°
Pitch: 82.5mph Curveball (RHP Robert Gsellman, 4) pic.twitter.com/36PitojV6S
Alzolay ran out of gas in the ninth, serving up a leadoff homer to Todd Frazier and walking Wilson Ramos. As the game was now in a save situation, Steve Cishek was summoned, and Alzolay left to a standing ovation, doffing his cap high in the air in appreciation, after four innings, allowing one hit (the homer), walking two and striking out five.
Cishek finished up 1-2-3 and the Cubs had their second straight win. The Brewers were defeated by the Reds Thursday evening, so the Cubs’ lead in the N.L. Central increased to 1½ games, their biggest lead since May 26.
Alzolay: “Today was the best day ever throwing my change up.”— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) June 21, 2019
The changeup, along with his other pitches, was outstanding.
Azolay: "I was on the phone with my family (in Venezuela) just now. They were very happy. My dad and my mom. They were so excited, crying, just like a blessing."— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) June 21, 2019
"When I looked at the hitter, the first hitter, I was like, 'Oh my gosh, everything is coming true right now. The thing I always dreamed as a kid is just coming true.'" --Alzolay— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 21, 2019
"He was the happiest pitcher on the face of the earth." --Maddon, on Alzolay tipping his cap to the crowd— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 21, 2019
What was most impressive?— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) June 21, 2019
Willson Contreras: "The confidence that he showed.”
Before we get ahead of ourselves too much, though:
Anthony Rizzo, asked if Adbert Alzolay can make a big impact this season:— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 21, 2019
"Let's pump the brakes a little bit. Let's let him settle into the big leagues and play baseball before we crown him the next Pedro Martinez, which I hope he is. But, let's just let him settle in."
Rizzo is right, of course. Alzolay showed the talent we all hoped he had, and certainly he deserves to get another outing, whether it’s a start or backing up Chatwood or, as suggested above, having an “opener” start the game and having him enter in the second inning. Fun facts:
Had Alzolay not come back out for the 9th, he would've been the first pitcher with 4+ innings, 0 hits allowed & 5+ strikeouts in MLB debut since Max Scherzer (4.1 IP, 7 K) April 29, 2008.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 21, 2019
That’s pretty good company. And:
Adbert Alzolay is the first #Cubs pitcher to get a win in MLB debut since Ryan O'Malley 8/16/2006.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 21, 2019
BUT he's the first Cub to get a win in first *MLB pitching appearance* since John Baker!! 7/29/2014
Let’s hope Alzolay has a better career than O’Malley, who made only one more MLB appearance after his great emergency start August 16, 2006. One last fun fact about Alzolay:
FYI...The 1st No. 73 for the #Cubs— Kasey Ignarski (@kaseyi99) June 20, 2019
A fine time was had by all at Wrigley Field, a near full house of 38,956 on a cool night that, at least, had no rain falling.
The Cubs go for their third straight win Friday afternoon at Wrigley. Yu Darvish will start for the Cubs and Jason Vargas goes for the Mets. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage Friday will be on NBC Sports Chicago (and on MLB Network outside the Cubs and Mets market territories)