Alec Mills has always been kind of an afterthought in the Cubs’ grand scheme of things. A 22nd-round pick of the Royals in 2012, the Cubs acquired him in 2017 for a minor leaguer (Donnie Dewees) who they then reacquired two years later.
Meanwhile, Mills went up and down a few times in 2018 and 2019 between Iowa and Chicago, making a start here, a relief appearance there. The results were decent, nothing special.
And then Jose Quintana sliced his left thumb while doing dishes at his Miami home just before Summer Camp began. Q is still out with no timetable for his return, and so Mills got a spot in the Cubs rotation pretty much by default.
It might be just two starts, but Mills’ showing so far in 2020 indicates it’s going to be difficult to take him out of the rotation. He threw a career-high seven innings, allowed three hits, three walks and no runs, and Casey Sadler and Rowan Wick completed a five-hit shutout as the Cubs defeated the Royals 2-0, the team’s fourth consecutive win.
Mills is Kyle Hendricks-lite. He doesn’t throw with great velocity (per Fangraphs, his fastball tops out just over 90 miles per hour); rather, he succeeds by locating his pitches well and inducing weak contact. Nine of his 21 outs Monday were on ground balls.
He had some help from his defense, too. With one out in the top of the fourth, David Bote made this slick play [VIDEO] on a grounder from Alex Gordon.
The next hitter, Adalberto Mondesi, walked. Willson Contreras and Javier Baez took care of that when Mondesi tried to steal second, on a patented Javy no-look tag [VIDEO].
The Cubs took the lead in the fifth. They loaded the bases with nobody out on two walks and a single, and after Anthony Rizzo popped up, Javy hit a line-drive sacrifice fly to right to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead.
In the seventh, Bote helped out defensively again, with this nice play on a bunt attempt by Mondesi [VIDEO].
Bote has definitely earned more playing time, both with his bat and his glove.
Kris Bryant, back in the lineup after missing two games with gastrointestinal issues, gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead in the seventh [VIDEO].
As you can see in the video, the Wrigley video board had KB’s numbers posted and entering this game, they were not good. The homer was Bryant’s first of the year and hopefully, that gets him going. Bryant had two of the Cubs’ four hits on the evening.
And why didn’t he think of this earlier?
Kris Bryant said his wife reminded him that he promised their infant son that he'd hit him a homer for him today. Bryant was asked if he tells his son that often:— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 4, 2020
"That was the first time. I'll probably do it tomorrow, too."
Monday in Chicago was a cool night that felt more like September than August and a lot of baseballs hit in the air were knocked down by a strong wind blowing in at Wrigley Field. One Royals note — reliever Josh Staumont made Cubs hitters (Baez, Contreras and Kyle Schwarber) look silly in the eighth, striking out the side on just 13 pitches.
Meanwhile, Wick had entered to finish off the Royals eighth and ... well, it appears David Ross isn’t ready for Craig Kimbrel to close games again, because in an obvious save situation in the ninth, Kimbrel was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Wick remained in the game and allowed a one-out single to Franchy Cordero, but then retired the next two hitters on pop flies to record his second save of the season.
The Cubs have now started 8-2 for the seventh time since 1901. Four of the previous six 8-2 starts (1907, 1934, 1969, 1989, 1998 and 2016) have resulted in postseason appearances and two in World Series wins.
So this appears to bode well for the 2020 Cubs and a postseason run... if we get that far. It’s not even clear today if the Cubs and Cardinals will play in St. Louis this weekend. So enjoy this while you can.
Fun fact about Cubs starting pitching in 2020:
Through 10 games this season, @Cubs starting pitchers have held their opponents to a .156 batting average.— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) August 4, 2020
That's the lowest batting average allowed by any team's starting pitchers through 10 games of a season in the live-ball era (since 1920).#WhereStoriesPlay
Mills had a few words for the Royals after the game:
Alec Mills, on tossing seven shutout innings in W over the Royals:— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 4, 2020
"That was a team that got rid of me a couple years ago. I understand the business. My job is to make it hurt whenever I face them again. It took four years for it to happen, but I'm glad it did."
He’s a competitor. Glad he’s on our side. The Cubs might not be able to find enough fungible relief pitchers, but it looks like they’ve got a very good fifth starter in Mills.
The Cubs and Royals will meet again Tuesday evening at Wrigley Field at 7:15 p.m. CT. Kyle Hendricks gets the ball for the Cubs against KC’s Brady Singer. TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.