Whatever happens at Tuesday’s trade deadline, the Cubs are going to have to do something about Marcus Stroman.
No, not trade him, it’s clear by the deals already made that the Cubs are all-in on a postseason push.
And Stroman, who has been, frankly, terrible over his last seven starts, isn’t going to be traded. But can the team keep running him out there, start after start, only to find themselves far behind in the early innings?
It happened again Monday at Wrigley Field, and despite a comeback attempt, the team fell short, losing 6-5 in the series opener to the Reds.
Stroman retired the first five batters he faced, then gave up four straight hits, all of them hit hard, and the Cubs trailed 3-0 in the second inning.
They got one of those runs back on a homer by Dansby Swanson, his 13th [VIDEO].
But Stroman got hit hard again in the third inning, this time also issuing a pair of walks. Three more runs scored and the Cubs were down 6-1.
The Cubs, though, did not quit. Nick Madrigal led off the bottom of the third with a walk and advanced to third on a double by Nico Hoerner.
Hoerner went to third on that play, and scored on another sac fly, this one by Ian Happ [VIDEO].
The Cubs weren’t done in that inning. Cody Bellinger doubled and Swanson walked. Yan Gomes singled in Bellinger [VIDEO].
So the Cubs matched the Reds’ three-run third and trailed by two.
That’s when the Cubs bullpen put together some absolutely outstanding work. Javier Assad, Daniel Palencia and Mark Leiter Jr. combined for six shutout innings, allowing two hits and three walks and striking out eight. Just three Reds got past first base over that span.
The Cubs relievers were helped out by some slick defense by Swanson [VIDEO].
That gave the Cubs a chance to come back, but they also had trouble reaching base. After the third, no Cub got past first base until the seventh, when Madrigal was hit by a pitch and Hoerner walked. But the next three Cubs went down in order.
Finally, in the eighth, they got on the board again. With one out, Gomes doubled and Christopher Morel doubled him in [VIDEO].
That didn’t miss being a game-tying homer by much, but... sigh... it wasn’t.
Morel stood in scoring position as the potential tying run. Mike Tauchman struck out on a very questionable check-swing ruling by third base umpire Derek Thomas [VIDEO].
And Madrigal grounded out to end the inning.
The Cubs went down 1-2-3 in the ninth to Reds closer Alexis Diaz, who is leading MLB in saves, 32 of them in 33 opportunities, one of the reasons the Reds have been so good this year.
Back to Stroman. He retired five batters easily, then got pounded. So... use him as an opener until he figures out what’s wrong?
I’m joking. Mostly.
Seriously, though: Stroman now has a 9.00 ERA over his last seven starts, which cover only 30 innings — that’s barely over four innings per start, and he now has not made it out of the fourth inning in the last four. What would I do? Put him on the injured list and give him a couple of weeks break. There has to be some “shoulder fatigue” or something similar the team could use for an IL placement. Let Assad or Hayden Wesneski take Stroman’s starts for the next two or three turns through the rotation.
The Cubs dropped back to .500 and five games out of first place. They didn’t lose any ground to the second-place Brewers, who lost in Washington. And, the Cubs remain 3½ games behind the third wild card spot in the National League.
I will have more to say on the Cubs’ trades Monday at 9 a.m. CT. That’s when a trade deadline open thread will post.
In the meantime, the Cubs will look to even up the series against the Reds Tuesday evening at Wrigley Field. Justin Steele will start for the Cubs and Ben Lively will take the mound for the Reds. Game time is again 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.