Who says the Cubs can’t develop pitching?
Four pitchers — Justin Steele, Keegan Thompson, Scott Effross and Ethan Roberts — all drafted and developed by the Cubs organization combined on a four-hit, 9-0 shutout of the Milwaukee Brewers Saturday afternoon on a cold, but sunny day at Wrigley Field.
None of those pitchers is a high draft pick, either. Steele (fifth round), Thompson (third), Effross (15th) and Roberts (fourth) for the most part came out of nowhere to become MLB pitchers, and it looks like the Cubs have some keepers here.
There was some extracurricular activity that you probably want to talk about, and I’ll get to that. Let’s start at the beginning.
Brandon Woodruff simply couldn’t throw strikes in the first inning. Two walks and Nick Madrigal with the first HBP of the day loaded the bases for Ian Happ [VIDEO].
A fielder’s choice by Frank Schwindel made it 2-0 and Seiya Suzuki’s sacrifice fly made it 3-0 [VIDEO]. The Cubs scored the three runs without a hit.
Suzuki is still getting used to MLB pitching (and trying to catch fly balls in right field with the early-season sun at Wrigley), but he’s holding his own, I’d say, with that sac fly and an RBI single in the third [VIDEO].
Woodruff was just awful, which was just fine with me. The four runs the Cubs scored in the first three innings off him were more than they scored off him all of last year in 28 innings.
The Cubs put the game away in the fourth. Rafael Ortega hit a one-out double and one out later, Willson Contreras was hit by a Brewers pitch. Again. That’s the 57th HBP of Willson’s career. Fifteen of them are by Brewers pitchers. No other team has hit Willson more than seven times. So you tell me? Headhunting or no? (NARRATOR: “It’s headhunting.”)
That made it 5-0, and that was it for Woodruff. Jose Ureña came in and wasn’t any better at throwing strikes. He walked Frank Schwindel to load the bases, then walked Suzuki to make it 6-0, threw a wild pitch that made it 7-0. He then walked Jason Heyward, throwing one strike among his first 12 pitches. Patrick Wisdom flied to center to end the inning.
Brewers pitchers threw 107 pitches through four innings, only 57 of them strikes. Kind of like an Edwin Jackson Cubs start back in 2014 or so.
While all this was going on, Steele was mowing down Brewers. He allowed four hits and a walk in five innings, striking out four and looking like he’d been doing this sort of thing for years. It might be just one game but I do think the Cubs might have found themselves a solid lefthanded starter. Steele threw 77 pitches in his five innings, 46 for strikes, and got out of a jam in the fourth after allowing the first two runners to single off him.
Thompson followed and threw an uneventful sixth and seventh. The Cubs added two more in the bottom of the sixth on this single by Wisdom [VIDEO].
In the bottom of the seventh with two out and a runner on first, Ian Happ got hit by this Brewers pitch [VIDEO].
Happ got hit on the left knee. He was down for what seemed a long time, then walked off under his own power. With the score 9-0 there was no need to leave him in the game and he departed for Clint Frazier. Here’s the latest on Happ:
Ian Happ said he was hit on the kneecap by that pitch. Good news for Cubs: X-rays came back negative.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) April 9, 2022
I would imagine Happ will sit out Sunday, which would give him a break until Tuesday for the Pittsburgh-area native to play in his hometown.
Personally, I’m getting kind of tired of all these Brewers HBPs, and apparently, so was Thompson [VIDEO].
Field view of the benches clearing brouhaha at Wrigley.— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) April 9, 2022
Jason Heyward wasted no time getting to the front of the scrum from CF pic.twitter.com/rvu9JdOnkW
That’s the first thing I noticed, Heyward racing in from center field. More here:
McCutchen hit by pitch and the benches slowly empty here at Wrigley. Jason Heyward sprinted in from center field and was among first to face the Brewers' crowd. Heyward and Cain were jawing at one another.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) April 9, 2022
No one was injured in the scrum, but Thompson was ejected.
Honestly I’m tired of this nonsense. While it seems like mostly Brewers pitchers aiming at Cubs hitters, there’s been quite a bit of back-and-forth:
Brewers pitchers lead the Cubs pitchers, 27-26, in HBP dating back to 2020.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) April 9, 2022
2020: Brewers 11, Cubs 5
2021: Cubs 18, Brewers 12
2022: Brewers 4, Cubs 3
That’s seven HBP in TWO GAMES so far this year. Enough already, guys.
The rest of the game was uneventful, except for marking the MLB debut for Roberts, who hit the first batter he faced, Christian Yelich. The crowd liked it, and that one can likely be chalked up to nervousness rather than retaliation.
You can see at the end of that clip how happy Roberts is. He’s only got 128 minor league innings under his belt and, like almost all minor leaguers, missed the 2020 season. I’m happy for him that he’s made it and he looks like he could be an impact pitcher at the big-league level.
So. You did not expect the Cubs to be 2-0 after two games, but here we are. It’s the first time since 2016 that the Cubs have started the season 2-0, and no, I am not suggesting these Cubs are equivalent to those Cubs, just pointing out a fact. It is the first time the Cubs have opened a season at home with two wins since 1985. So that’s a thing. (Though that season didn’t end well.)
In any case, these Cubs have played quite well over the first two games against a quality team, and I also wanted to point out that the Brewers won 95 games in 2021 largely because their starting pitching was otherworldly all year. Only the Giants and Dodgers, both of whom won 106+ games, allowed fewer runs than the Brewers in 2021. That kind of success is sometimes not sustainable, and I’m glad to see the Cubs score 14 runs in two games off two very good starting pitchers.
The Cubs will go for an improbable sweep of this rain-shortened three-game series Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field, where we are told it’ll be a little bit warmer (mid 50s). Marcus Stroman will make his Cubs debut and Freddy Peralta will go for Milwaukee. Game time is again 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.