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A look at Cubs starters during their historic no-walk streak

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The starters made some history over the last few games.

Cole Hamels pitches against the Brewers in his first start after coming off the injured list
Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Monday’s game against the Athletics at Wrigley Field was not for the faint of heart. Despite leading on Nicholas Castellanos’ home run into the basket in the first inning, the Cubs found themselves in the unenviable position of trailing the Athletics after the top of the third even though Kyle Hendricks had only given up one hit. While it all worked out okay, I’m actually a little bit more interested in the walk that allowed Marcus Semien to hit a two-run home run in the first place, because it was the first walk issued by Cubs starting pitching in over 149 batters.

MLB’s Jordan Bastian noted how uncommon that streak was in this piece on Sunday:

Including Darvish’s five-inning effort on Sunday, Chicago’s rotation has cruised through 143 consecutive batters without issuing a walk. The group has amassed 42 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings during that stretch.

Sunday marked the sixth game in a row that the Cubs’ rotation did not allow a walk. According to research done for the Cubs by Ed Hartig, that marks the longest such streak in team history since at least 1905.

Yes, you read that correctly. That was the longest no-walk streak by Cubs starters in at least 114 years. Given the rarity of this situation, I wanted to take a look at some stats and numbers from this remarkable streak.

  • Over 36⅔ innings, Cubs starting pitchers struck out 44 batters.
  • They gave up 38 total hits and 10 runs, all earned.
  • They had a K/9 of 10.80.

It’s also worth looking at some of the individual lines during this streak, and I want to start with Yu Darvish who is the only pitcher who pitched twice during the streak. Over his last two games this is Darvish’s line: 11 IP, 11 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 17 K. That is the pitcher the Cubs thought they were getting when they offered him a six-year deal in 2018.

Cole Hamels’ first start after a stint on the Injured List with an oblique strain was also worth noting. If anyone had concerns about his less than stellar outings in Iowa I think his 5 shutout innings with 4 hits and 6 strikeouts probably put those to rest. Welcome back to the rotation, Cole.

While Hendricks’ two walks to the Athletics on Monday night broke the Cubs streak, he had the longest outing of any pitcher during this streak on the road against St. Louis. Additionally, in some ways his performance against a very good Athletics team was more impressive than his performance against the Cardinals, despite the walks. You can see both game lines below, his first two innings on Monday night were walk free:

vs. Cardinals: 7 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K
vs. Athletics: 6⅓ IP, 1 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K

Quintana’s start against the Brewers during this stretch was not quite reminiscent of the Q who vexed Milwaukee when he was first traded to the Cubs, but it certainly got the job done. He threw 6 innings and despite giving up 7 hits held the Brewers to 2 runs, both earned, with 5 Qs.

By far the roughest start in this outing was Jon Lester’s start against the Cardinals, in fact here’s what Lester had to say about the outing that saw him give up nine hits and five runs in five innings while striking out six:

All told, the Cubs managed to go 4-2 over the 6+ game walk-less starting pitching stretch that included series against the Cardinals and the Brewers. They’ve also finally managed to open up a 2½-game lead in the division. It seems unlikely that we’ll see another streak of 149 batters without a Cubs starter giving up a walk, but if they can continue to limit walks going forward things are looking good down the stretch.