Something’s gotten into Marcus Stroman recently and I like it — a lot.
Ever since MLB announced the pitch clock as part of several rule changes for the 2023 season, Stroman has picked up his pace of pitching and has been successful with it. Monday’s game was his third start since the rule changes were announced and he’s posted a 2.25 ERA, 0.800 WHIP and held opponents to a .171 batting average over that span. Monday he threw seven strong innings, allowing just one run on four hits, and the Cubs generated just enough offense to defeat the visiting Phillies 2-1.
Stroman and his opponent, Zack Wheeler, matched zeroes through the top of the third. With two out in the bottom of the third, Christopher Morel gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead [VIDEO].
The homer was Morel’s 15th of the year and after a prolonged slump, he’s hitting better over his last seven games: .286/.412/.857 (4-for-14), with all four hits going for extra bases, two doubles and two home runs. It would be great to see Morel finish the year on an upswing.
Stroman continued his strong pitching into the sixth, when a two-out double by Bryce Harper scored Bryson Stott to tie the game 1-1. Stroman completed the seventh inning having thrown 97 pitches (64 strikes) and after a long period of not pitching well at Wrigley Field, three of his last five starts there have been excellent and his season ERA at home has dropped to 5.71. He’ll get one more start this year, likely at Wrigley Sunday against the Reds. Also, this:
Cubs righty Marcus Stroman limited the Phillies to one run over seven innings tonight, lowering his ERA to 2.74 over his last 15 turns (dating back to July).— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 28, 2022
The Cubs took the lead in the bottom of the seventh. Ian Happ led off with a single and after Nico Hoerner lined out, Happ took second on a ground ball to short. Yan Gomes was the next hitter [VIDEO].
Gomes wound up on second with a double, his second hit of the game, and Happ scored to make it 2-1.
That left it up to the Cubs bullpen to preserve the lead. Brandon Hughes was summoned to pitch the eighth. He’s been closing lately, but this was likely done because the first two hitters in the inning (Bryson Stott and Kyle Schwarber) were lefthanded hitters. Hughes retired Stott on a fly to left and walked Schwarber, but then got Rhys Hoskins to hit into a double play.
The Cubs didn’t score in the bottom of the eighth and Hughes was left in to face the lefthanded Harper to start the ninth. Harper singled, putting the tying run on base, and Manuel Rodriguez was called in to preserve the lead. ManRod had just about the most efficient outing you could imagine — three outs on two pitches. He got J.T. Realmuto to hit into a force play on his first pitch and here’s the second one [VIDEO].
And so today, the complaint department door is closed and locked up tight. Solid pitching and timely hitting won a game against a team likely headed to the postseason — the Phillies maintained their 1½-game lead for the last wild-card spot because the Brewers also lost Tuesday. You’re going to see a lot of games paced like this next year with the pitch clock. The game took just two hours, 15 minutes, and that was the Cubs’ second-fastest nine-inning game of 2022. The 6:40 p.m. start (which I hope the Cubs will extend to all night games in 2023) meant everything was done before 9 p.m.
The win improved the Cubs’ September record to 12-11 and now they must go just 5-3 in their eight remaining games to avoid losing 90 games this season. I think that’s quite possible.
Attendance watch: The announced tickets sold number of 32,069 was larger than I expected on a chilly 54-degree evening (the coolest at Wrigley since May 7), and there might have been 18,000 or so in the house. The Cubs have now sold 2,478,405 tickets for 76 dates, an average of 32,611 per date. They must average 24,319 for the final five dates to get to 2.6 million for the year, a mark it does appear they’ll reach.
The Cubs and Phillies will meet again Wednesday evening at Wrigley Field, the final night game of the year at the North Side ballpark with the Cubs having another chance at a series win. Hayden Wesneski will start for the Cubs and Aaron Nola will get the call for Philadelphia. Game time is 6:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.