In the great sweep of Cubs history, Wednesday’s 4-3 win over the Marlins means nothing. Even in the smaller sweep of the 2022 season, all this victory did was move the Cubs from 22 games under .500 to 21 games under. Big whoop, right?
I’m here to tell you this game is a “big whoop” of sorts because the Cubs got very good starting pitching (apart from two home run balls), came from behind in the eighth inning to take the lead and held it because of some absolutely lockdown relief work from Keegan Thompson. Perhaps they’ve found that multi-inning reliever they’ve been looking for, or two, perhaps, if you count Adbert Alzolay. This is what I was saying about Thompson earlier this year when he was so good in relief, and I think it’s still true:
Really good stuff from Keegan in his return. Like Alzolay, the uptick in stuff really takes him to another level out of the bullpen.— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) September 22, 2022
Guys like Thompson and Alzolay can absolutely throw 96-97 or even a bit better if they’re limited to relief roles. I’d like to see both of them in the 2023 bullpen.
Let’s rewind to the beginning.
As he did last time out, Marcus Stroman worked fast. I mean, really fast compared to his previous pace. Either the coaching staff sat down with him or Stroman himself decided that with the pitch clock coming in 2023, he’d have to work faster. It’s working; both of his last starts have been very good to excellent. That’s true of this one even though he served up a pair of home run balls in the fifth inning that gave the Marlins a 3-0 lead.
That lead might have been bigger if not for this really nice grab by Patrick Wisdom in right field in the first inning [VIDEO].
Wisdom made another nice running catch in the second inning. Let me remind you of the number of games Wisdom had played in right field in his entire professional career before tonight: Four (three starts), all last year or this year with the Cubs. That’s good stuff.
Wisdom also began the scoring for the Cubs after Jesus Luzardo held them scoreless for the first six innings on just two singles. Here’s his solo homer with two out in the seventh [VIDEO].
That was a laser beam — you can’t hit a ball out of a baseball stadium at a much lower launch angle than this:
That was Wisdom’s first home run since August 19, a span of 37 plate appearances (and one IL stint). Hopefully he can finish the year strong.
Some of you might remember the simCubs season that Duane Pesice and I put forth during the pandemic shutdown in 2020. Duane traded Daniel Descalso to the A’s for Luzardo — a steal, I know. He threw well for the fake Cubs, and maybe they should have traded for Luzardo for real because he has absolutely dominated the Cubs this year. In two starts against them he allowed just one run, Wisdom’s homer, in 13⅔ innings. Overall in those innings: four hits and one walk allowed, with 17 strikeouts. (The Marlins got him last year in a trade for Starling Marte.)
Luzardo was lifted after the homer and though the Cubs didn’t score again in the seventh, they put a three-spot on the board in the eighth off three Marlins relievers. Zach McKinstry and Christopher Morel led off the inning with walks, and that brought up Esteban Quiroz [VIDEO].
The bunt was good and would have advanced the runners, but a bad throw allowed McKinstry to score to make it 3-2 and put Morel on third. This infield grounder by David Bote scored Morel [VIDEO].
The play at the plate was close, but Marlins catcher Nick Fortes couldn’t handle the throw and the game was tied. That error moved Quiroz to third, where he scored on this sac fly by Ian Happ [VIDEO].
So let’s review. Five Cubs batted and only one ball left the infield (and there were no hits), but three runs scored. That’s great production and heads-up baserunning.
Meanwhile, Thompson had replaced Stroman for the seventh and retired the side in order, so he was in line for a win when the Cubs took that lead. Thompson walked the leadoff hitter in the eighth, but then retired the next three hitters. And then David Ross left him in to throw the ninth, a strong vote of confidence.
Thompson struck out the first two Marlins in the ninth, touching 96 a couple of times, then allowed a double. Then he floated two curveballs past Jordan Groshans and struck him out to end the game on this nasty slider [VIDEO].
In all, Thompson faced 11 hitters and struck out six, one of his best outings of the year. Yes, admittedly the sample size is small but, as noted above, I think he’ll work out much better for the 2023 Cubs as a multi-inning reliever. He’ll surely get more chances to do that the remainder of this year.
The Cubs thus won another series and took the season series from the Marlins four games to two. Again, in that “grand Cub scheme” it doesn’t mean much, but this win was satisfying because of Thompson’s performance and the fact that the Cubs never gave up trying to come back, a real credit to the players and Ross, who always has his guys playing hard. It was the first time the Cubs had come from behind in the eighth inning or later since August 20, when they went to the bottom of the ninth trailing the Brewers 2-1, tied it, then won in 11, and the first time on the road since July 6 at Milwaukee.
The Cubs now travel to Pittsburgh to begin a four-game series against the Pirates Thursday evening. Hayden Wesneski, who was outstanding in his first MLB start last weekend, will start for the Cubs and JT Brubaker gets the call for the Pirates. Game time is 5:35 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.