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Cubs 4, Rockies 2: Trevor Williams and Pedro Strop step up

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There were some very good pitching performances on Saturday... this staff is going to be better than you think.

Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

MESA, Arizona — I have a little wager going with BCB’s Sara Sanchez about Trevor Williams.

I say Williams will make at least 25 starts and have an ERA of 3.75 or lower and a WHIP of 1.275 or lower. Sara says no.

After Saturday’s outstanding outing for Williams in the Cubs’ 4-2 win over the Rockies, I think I might have a bit of a leg up on winning that one.

Yes, it’s just spring training, yes, spring stats don’t mean much. But Williams is pitching the way he did in 2018 with the Pirates, when he posted a 3.11 ERA and 1.178 WHIP and had a 4.0 bWAR season. He sits comfortably at 92-93 miles per hour, induces weak contact (seven of his 15 outs Saturday were infield ground balls) and works quickly. He allowed one run, a homer by Trevor Story. No shame there, lots of guys give up homers to Trevor Story.

I’m going to go on record right now as saying this might be the best signing Jed Hoyer made all offseason. Williams has a 1.32 ERA and 0.951 WHIP in 13⅔ innings with just one walk and 11 strikeouts. Saturday, he became the first Cub to throw five full innings this spring — and after that, he threw some more pitches in the bullpen:

Now, on to the other game details, and then one more note about Cubs pitching.

The Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the first. Ian Happ doubled and scored on a pair of groundouts. After Story’s homer tied the game in the top of the fourth, the Cubs got that run back and more in the bottom of the fifth. Jason Heyward led off with a double and one out later, Jake Marisnick connected [VIDEO].

Marisnick had been slowed by a minor calf injury, but since he’s started playing in games he looks just fine. He’s 3-for-8 with two home runs.

One inning later, Kris Bryant smashed his first spring homer [VIDEO].

There’s no Statcast data for those homers, but both went a long way, I’d estimate about 420 feet for them.

The Cubs got good relief work from Shelby Miller, Craig Kimbrel and Andrew Chafin. All three threw scoreless innings, with the only baserunner off any of those three a one-out walk int he sixth off Miller. Kimbrel, for the first time this spring, looked really good, striking out two of the three hitters he faced.

And then there was Pedro Strop’s outing, his first in a competitive game since returning to the Cubs.

He walked the first hitter he faced, then allowed a “swinging bunt” single down the third-base line that no one could have made a play on. With one out, a ground ball moved the runners to second and third and a wild pitch scored a run. That’s a tough wild pitch, in my opinion — could have been scored a passed ball. Strop then got Josh Fuentes to fly to right to end the game.

The most important thing is that Strop threw effortlessly. He appears 100 percent healthy and his fastball was sitting at 94-95 miles per hour. If he can continue to do that, he is absolutely going to make the Opening Day roster. To me, he looked like the effective pre-2019 Strop who helped the Cubs win a lot of games.

This pitching staff is going to be a lot better than people think. Essentially, Yu Darvish, Jose Quintana and Jon Lester have been replaced by Zach Davies, Jake Arrieta and Trevor Williams. Honestly, I think the Cubs got the better of that.

The Cubs will play again at Sloan Park Sunday, facing the Reds. Alec Mills will start for the Cubs and Tyler Mahle will go for the Reds. Game time is again 3:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network. The game will also be carried on 670 The Score.