Jordan Wicks, just called up from Triple-A Iowa, did not have an auspicious beginning to his major-league debut.
Ke’Bryan Hayes smacked Wicks’ second pitch out of the yard for a home run. Then Wicks allowed a single and walk.
And then... nothing else. Wicks retired the next 15 Pirates hitters in a row, striking out nine, one of the most impressive debuts for a Cubs starting pitcher in many, many years. And the Cubs offense, moribund Friday night, came alive with walks and hits and the Cubs won in what should have been a blowout but instead got uncomfortably close, 10-6.
Before we go through the video highlights and play-by-play, here are the impressive things about Wicks’ debut:
Jordan Wicks is the 4th starter in Cubs history, since 1901, with at least 9 strikeouts in his MLB debut.— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) August 27, 2023
The franchise record is 10 Ks by Mark Prior in 2002 and Thomas Diamond in 2010.
Jordan Wicks with 9 strikeouts. It's the third time a Cubs starter has 9 or more strikeouts in a game this season:— Andy Martínez (@amartinez_11) August 27, 2023
- Drew Smyly, 10 (4/21 - his near-perfect game)
- Justin Steele, 9 (7/21 in London)
Wicks is through 4 innings in Pittsburgh. #Cubs
And OMG these changeups:
Jordan Wicks, Changeup Clinic. pic.twitter.com/ldSjLvW0r5— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 26, 2023
Honestly, I had no idea this guy could be this good. Hope this continues. He should be on track to start one of the doubleheader games against the Reds Friday — on his 24th birthday.
One more fun fact about Wicks’ debut, from BCB’s JohnW53:
Even beyond the nine strikeouts, Jordan Wicks did something incredible in his debut. He pitched five innings and gave up one run on two hits with one walk.
The only previous Cubs starter to do throw at least five innings in his big league debut and not exceed Wicks’ runs, hits or walks was Alex Hardy, a 25-year-old left hander, who threw a two-hit shutout with no walks (and five strikeouts) at Brooklyn on . . . September 4, 1902!
Now let’s have a look at the highlights. The Pirates took the aforementioned 1-0 lead on the first-inning homer off Wicks, and the Cubs went down easily in the first and second innings.
With one out in the third, it appeared Miguel Amaya had been hit by a pitch, but the Pirates challenged and got it overturned. All that did was make Pirates pitcher Osvaldo Bido throw several more pitches to Amaya, who wound up drawing a walk. Nick Madrigal singled, then Mike Tauchman worked one of his patented long at-bats and walked to load the bases.
Dansby Swanson then walked to tie the game and Pittsburgh-area native Ian Happ also walked to give the Cubs the lead. After that, Cody Bellinger grounded out to plate a third Cubs run. Here are all three RBI plays from that inning [VIDEO].
Wicks kept mowing down Pirates hitters while all this was going on, finishing his outing after five innings with 83 pitches (47 strikes). You saw some of the impressive things about his debut above. Here’s a breakdown of his pitching [VIDEO].
While all that was going on from Wicks, the Cubs blew the game open in the top of the fifth. With one out, Tauchman singled and Swanson walked.
The Pittsburgh-area native loves hitting in his hometown — Happ doubled in a pair [VIDEO].
Bellinger then looped this single to center, scoring Happ to make it 6-1 [VIDEO].
Seiya Suzuki then sent this triple to left, scoring Bellinger to make it 7-1 [VIDEO].
Jeimer Candelario plated the fifth run in the inning with an RBI single, scoring Suzuki [VIDEO].
After Wicks left the game, Hayden Wesneski entered and threw a scoreless sixth, but ... ugh ... could not hold the Pirates back in the bottom of the seventh, when the Pirates plated five runs off Wesneski and Mark Leiter Jr. Wesneski, in particular, is going to have to do better to be a useful part of this bullpen. At this point I think he’s going to have to be relegated to garbage time — or possibly even head back to Iowa.
Leiter, though, recovered with a 1-2-3 eighth. And in the ninth, the Cubs scored a couple of never-quit, important insurance runs.
With one out, Swanson singled, but was forced at second by Happ. Bellinger followed with another hit, moving Happ to third, and Suzuki doubled both runners in to make it 10-6 [VIDEO].
With the game taken out of a save situation by the two-run ninth, David Ross called on Daniel Palencia to finish things off. But getting that final out proved elusive for Palencia, who issued a pair of walks while retiring two Pirates batters.
So Adbert Alzolay had to be summoned.
Three pitches, game over. Here’s the final pitch, a 97 mile per hour fastball [VIDEO].
Wicks thus becomes the first Cubs starter to win his MLB debut since Ryan O’Malley, in a memorable game in Houston, August 16, 2006.
Here’s how things stand regarding playoff positioning following Saturday’s action.
The Brewers won their seventh in a row Saturday, so the Cubs remain four games behind them in the division race. The Giants and Marlins both lost and fell further behind in the wild-card race, and in a wild game at Chase Field the Reds came back and beat the Diamondbacks in 11 innings. That put the Cubs back in the second wild-card spot, half a game ahead of Arizona. The Reds are half a game behind the D-Backs and a game behind the Cubs. The Phillies won in a blowout, so the Cubs trail them in the wild-card race by 2½ games.
The Cubs will go for the series win — and a 5-2 road trip — Sunday afternoon at PNC Park. Javier Assad will start for the Cubs and Bailey Falter will go for Pittsburgh. Game time is 12:35 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network. The BCB game preview today will post at 11 a.m. CT.