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Adbert Alzolay’s two-inning save was electric

More like this, please!

Alzolay after the eighth inning against a juggernaut Rays team
Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

I have a confession to make — I cheer for the Cubs and I do not think the front office understands what this means the same way I do. Anthony Rizzo meant more to me than Eric Hosmer or Trey Mancini could ever mean. Yes, I’m factoring in the latter’s possible contributions in the 2024 World Series. The only catcher I’ve really loved other than Willson Contreras this side of the Victor Caratini trade is Miguel Amaya. I will never love Brad Boxberger or Michael Fulmer as much as I adore Adbert Alzolay.

There is something that matters to me about dudes being Cubs. About seeing their early pitches and at bats, seeing their struggles, cheering for them when they get thrown out arguing for their teammates and watching them grow. It is possible for a perfectly timed free agent (I’m looking at you, Jon Lester) to walk into that space, but it is rare. Most importantly, it is not guaranteed.

And so it was that I found myself screaming until I couldn’t talk for Adbert Alzolay as he completed a two-inning save against the best offense in baseball Tuesday at Wrigley Field. There is no other pitcher currently in the Cubs bullpen I’ve gotten so attached to. It was electric. It was the Cubs baseball Harry Caray sold me from the bleachers in the mid 1980’s and 90’s when I was watching WGN at my parents’ home in Price, Utah.

I was at Adbert’s debut and it was one of the greatest nights I’ve ever seen at Wrigley Field. The Chicago Cubs had not developed a starting pitcher in years. Alzolay had demonstrated promise then dealt with injuries and setbacks. And on June 20, 2019 Alzolay made his debut in front of a sellout crowd at Wrigley Field against the New York Mets.

The 2019 Cubs team was a fun, but ultimately disappointing crew. The season ended at home with trade acquisition Nick Castellanos looking forlornly out at the field after the Cub were swept by the Cardinals in a four game series — losing in every possible heartbreaking way — as Gary Pressy played the Lowery organ one last time at Wrigley Field.

It was the stuff Cubs heartbreak is made of.

But before that, in June, Alzolay made his debut — a home grown pitching prospect. I remember being giddy watching him warm up in the outfield. He came in to relieve Tyler Chatwood and immediately shoved:

4IP 1R 1ER 1BB 5K

He struck out the first three batters he faced. He retired the next six before giving up his lone run — a home run off the bat of Todd Frazier to end a spectacular debut. Wrigley Field was electric. Admit it, you want to see it again [VIDEO].

It hasn’t all been easy for Alzolay since that outing. A few outings later he struggled with control, he hit the IL, he went back to Iowa. He tried to start, and got hurt again. And I just wanted success for the kid I watched light up the Mets during his MLB debut before Jon Lester gave him a bottle of champagne with the ace of spades on it to celebrate his first start a month later.

Four years later the Cubs are barely the same team. Joe Maddon is gone and so are almost all of Alzolay’s teammates from that first game, except Kyle Hendricks — who happened to draw the start tonight against an absolute juggernaut of an offense in the Tampa Bay Rays. (For anyone wondering, Alzolay’s debut was during Ian Happ’s prolonged 2019 stay in Iowa).

But Adbert is still here. And he’s shoving. He’s been one of the best relievers in a Cubs bullpen that mostly inspires groans. He’s thrown 26 innings with a 26.8 percent strikeout rate to a 4.1 percent walk rate. He has a 2.45 ERA with a 2.75 FIP and just absolutely blanked the best offense in baseball for a two-inning save. Take a look at all of the deep red on this Statcast card:

Adbert Alzolay Statcast Percentiles

Alzolay’s move to the bullpen has mostly fixed his lefty splits issues and there was absolutely no one else I wanted to see run to the mound in the ninth after Alzolay disposed of the Rays in the eighth on just nine pitches. Alzolay should be a fixture in high leverage situations for David Ross going forward. I won’t have a voice today, and I have no regrets.

And as much as Cubs fans love Adbert, the feeling is mutual:

Hope he's here and successful for a very long time.