The Cubs played a pretty good game Thursday night at Wrigley Field — where, suddenly, it was nearly 80 degrees after being in the 50s the rest of the week.
Marcus Stroman returned from the injured list with five decent innings. The bullpen locked it down for the remaining four.
But Diamondbacks starter Zac Gallen and four Arizona relievers were just better. Gallen, who has been one of the better starters in the league this year, gave the Cubs just two hits and a run and the Cubs couldn’t get anything going against their bullpen despite having RISP twice.
So, as the headline says, give a hat tip to the D-backs for their 3-1 win over the Cubs and move on to the next game. Arizona’s win snapped a six-game losing streak which the Cubs started by taking the last two games in Phoenix last weekend.
Before we do that, let’s take a look at what happened Thursday evening.
Stroman retired the first nine Arizona hitters before Daulton Varsho led off the fourth with a home run. One out later Ketel Marte singled and one out after that, he advanced to third on a passed ball. That was the key play of the inning, because if he had remained on first base, Josh Rojas’ single wouldn’t have scored him and Seiya Suzuki’s throw wouldn’t have gotten away at the plate for an error, allowing Rojas also to advance, where he scored on a single by David Peralta.
Upshot of all that? Maybe the D-backs score only two runs in the inning instead of three. (Not that it would have mattered, two would still have been enough to win the game.)
Overall, I thought it was a solid outing from Stroman, who has a 2.00 ERA and 0.778 WHIP over his last three starts, with just one walk in 18 innings. He’s lowered his season ERA by over four runs in that span.
The Cubs did get one run back in the bottom of the fourth. Willson Contreras led off with a walk and one out later moved to second on a groundout.
After that, the Cubs bullpen was lockdown solid. Scott Effross, Brandon Hughes and Robert Gsellman combined for four shutout innings, allowing two baserunners (a rare walk by Effross and a single). They struck out five.
That gave the Cubs a chance to get back in the game. In the sixth, Gomes singled and advanced to second on an error. The D-backs challenged the call at second. It was reviewed and ruled “call stands” [VIDEO].
One out later, Patrick Wisdom walked, but the runners were stranded when Christopher Morel popped into short left.
Again in the eighth, the Cubs put runners on. Suzuki reached on an error and with two out, Frank Schwindel doubled him to third. But Wisdom struck out to end the inning, and in the ninth, Mark Melancon retired three Cubs in order to end it. To circle back to the beginning of this recap, sometimes the other guy just plays better.
Here are some comments from Stroman about his outing
Stroman said he and members of his family dealt with COVID. He fought fatigue.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 20, 2022
"Was pretty much just in bed. I didn't have any energy to do anything. Just listened to my body. Just took the days I needed. And the second I felt good, I kind of got it ramped right back up."
Given circumstances, Stroman was happy w/ start (5 IP):— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 20, 2022
"I competed pretty well," he said. "I've had layoffs like that before in the past and I've kind of been all over the place. Just being around the zone and to give my team a chance, I think it's something good to build off."
Stroman was happy to have Robertson around during layoff:— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 20, 2022
"We were kind of going through it together," he said. "It's not easy to take that much time off and go and get big leaguer hitters out. Yeah, very thankful to have him and our little throwing sessions that we had."
I agree with Stroman’s analysis of his outing — he competed well and for as long a layoff as he had while fighting COVID (he hadn’t pitched in 18 days), I thought this outing was quite good. He should be fine for his next start, which will be in Cincinnati next week.
One last note, on a strange Cubs split:
Day games: 8-4
Night games: 7-18
Should bode well for the rest of this series, right? (As I have previously noted, MLB.com has this split incorrect. It appears they are counting the April 22 game against the Pirates, which was moved from 1:20 to 7:05, as a day game. Baseball-reference has it listed correctly.)
Next up, the second game of this series against Arizona. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and Humberto Castellanos is the scheduled starter for the D-backs. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and though storms are in the forecast for later in the day, it looks like they’ll hold off until after the game is over. TV coverage Friday is on Marquee Sports Network (and also on MLB Network outside the Cubs and D-backs market territories).