Now THAT was a major league debut!
Hayden Wesneski, acquired August 1 from the Yankees for Scott Effross, threw five shutout innings in his first MLB game, striking out eight, helping lead the Cubs to a 9-3 win over the Reds on a beautiful Tuesday evening at Wrigley Field, ending a three-game losing streak.
Much, much more on Wesneski a bit later, but first let’s rewind to the beginning of this satisfying win.
Wade Miley came off the injured list Tuesday to make his first big-league start since June 10. It did not start well. Miley walked the first hitter he faced and then an error by Nick Madrigal put runners on first and second. Kyle Farmer blooped a ball into short right field that was misplayed into a triple by Seiya Suzuki and both runners scored to make it 2-0 Reds.
Miley, though, settled down with no further damage in the first inning.
The Cubs got one of those runs back in the bottom of the inning. With two out, Ian Happ smashed a baseball into the bleachers [VIDEO].
Miley got touched up for another run in the third on a solo homer by Farmer, but Farmer’s two hits were the only ones off Miley, who departed after four innings having thrown 69 pitches. It was a good outing, and I assume Miley will get more of them as September continues.
Unless, of course, Wesneski has something to say about that after his stellar outing, and who knows?
Anyway, Wesneski began his evening with a scoreless fifth, interrupted only by a walk, with a pair of strikeouts. Then the Cubs got to work and erased the deficit. Alfonso Rivas led off the bottom of the fifth with a walk. Christopher Morel sacrificed him to second, just the Cubs’ 11th sac bunt of 2023. One out later, Suzuki tied the game [VIDEO].
So it’s 3-3 entering the sixth. Wesneski dispatched the Reds 1-2-3 and then the Cubs took the lead. Nico Hoerner led off with a single and Rafael Ortega walked. Then Yan Gomes laid down a sacrifice, advancing the runners to second and third. That’s the second time this year the Cubs have had two sac bunts in one game; the other was that wacky 12-inning game against the White Sox May 29. Before this year, the last time the Cubs had two sac bunts in one game by position players happened September 23, 2017 against the Brewers.
Anyway, Gomes’ sac paid off, as Nick Madrigal gave the Cubs the lead [VIDEO].
The Cubs extended the lead to 8-3 in the seventh. Franmil Reyes led off with a single and Hoerner was hit by a pitch. Two outs later, P.J. Higgins walked to load the bases. Christopher Morel brought two runs home with this hit [VIDEO].
Madrigal walked to re-load the bases and Suzuki walked on a 3-2 count to force in another run [VIDEO].
The Cubs’ final run came in the eighth. Hoerner sent a triple down the left-field line with one out and scored on this sacrifice fly by Ortega [VIDEO].
While all this was going on, Wesneski was mowing down Reds hitters. After the fifth-inning walk he retired 11 straight Reds before allowing a pair of hits in the ninth. It was clear he was running out of gas and David Ross had Manuel Rodriguez warming up, but Wesneski reached back for a little more and struck out the last two hitters he faced. Here’s the final out, on a nasty slider [VIDEO].
Look at the movement on this pitch!
Hayden Wesneski, Two Seamer and Breaking Ball Movement. pic.twitter.com/mV5naigWw6— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 7, 2022
I promised you much more on Wesneski and here are some fun facts courtesy of BCB’s own JohnW53!
Hayden Wesneski tonight became just the second Cubs pitcher since 1901 to pitch at least three innings in relief in his Major League debut and allow no runs.
On April 8, 1973, Ray Burris gave up two hits, walked two and struck out two in 3⅓ innings of a 2-5 loss at home to the Expos.
There had been 36 Cubs relievers before tonight who pitched at least three innings in their debuts.
Wesneski gave up no hits in his first 4⅓.
Four of the 36 allowed just one hit: Al Carson (4⅔ IP in 1910), Ben Johnson (5⅔ IP in 1959), Bill Caudill (3 IP in 1979) and Adbert Alzolay (4 IP in 2019).
Wesneski’s eight strikeouts are the most among all 37 pitchers. Paul Erickson had six in 7⅓ innings in 1941 and Anderson Espinoza had six in four innings on May 30 against the Brewers. Both walked three. Wesneski walked one.
But wait, there’s more!
Per the Cubs, Hayden Wesneski is the first reliever in MLB history (since at least 1901) to log 5+ shutout innings with no more than two hits allowed, plus 8+ strikeouts, in an MLB debut.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 7, 2022
A lot of qualifiers there, but... history!
Hayden Wesneski is the 1st Cubs reliever with at least 5 scoreless innings and 8 strikeouts in a game since Tom Phoebus on June 3, 1972 at the Padres.— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) September 7, 2022
More from Wesneski:
Hayden Wesneski, on Cubs fans after the final out:— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 7, 2022
“They're loud. I didn't think Chicago on a Tuesday would get this loud. I can't even imagine the playoffs and stuff like that. I was so stoked.”
Miley on Wesneski:
A smiling Wade Miley as he entered the media room for his postgame interview: “Why do you want to talk to me? Did you see what that kid (Wesneski) just did? I was just the opener.” #Cubs— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) September 7, 2022
What impressed Wade Miley about Wesneski's outing?— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 7, 2022
"Everything. I don't know if it gets a whole lot better than that. Maybe let him start next time and just let him have it."
Miley said it was fun to watch the pitches on TV: "The slider moves eight feet. He's got good stuff."
Will Wesneski get some starts in the time remaining this season? Cubs President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer was noncommittal:
The Cubs told Wesneski a few days ago they wanted to use him out of the bullpen to help control his innings.
“They just want to give me options,” Wesneski said. “We’ll see how it goes the rest of the year. I mean, we still have a month to get to work, but for now I’m out of the pen. That’s fine. I’ve done it before and we’ll figure it out.”
Hoyer did not commit to the Cubs wanting to look at Wesneski in a starting role at some point over the final four weeks. He cited the health of the Cubs’ other starters as a factor in that decision.
“Honestly, I could easily see that, but we’ll kind of take it game by game,” Hoyer said. “We’ll start him in the bullpen and you could easily see a scenario where that happens. But we’re not going to force that.”
As always, we await developments. But for now, the complaint department door is closed and locked up tight after this nicely-played win and excellent MLB debut.
One last fun fact about this game: Miley and Wesneski combined for 14 strikeouts. Cubs pitchers have struck out 14 or more in a nine-inning game five times this year. Four of those have been against the Reds.
The Cubs will go for two in a row over the Reds Wednesday evening at Wrigley Field. Another rookie who’s already made a good impression, Javier Assad, will start for the Cubs and Mike Minor will go for Cincinnati. Game time is again 6:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.