Chicago Cubs: Dominance of Pedro Strop starting to show cracks

jmurray
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 17: Pedro Strop #46 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the St. Louis Cardinalsat Wrigley Field on April 17, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cardinals defeated the Cubs 5-3. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 17: Pedro Strop #46 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the St. Louis Cardinalsat Wrigley Field on April 17, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cardinals defeated the Cubs 5-3. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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For a while, Pedro Strop didn’t miss a beat moving into the closer’s role for the Chicago Cubs. But after a few shaky outings recently, it’s even more critical that Brandon Morrow make his return before the postseason.

Ever since right-hander Brandon Morrow hit the 10-day disabled list on July 18 with right biceps inflammation, Pedro Strop served as the Chicago Cubs closer. And for the most part, it has appeared that he is up to the task.

After blowing one save against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 21, Strop proceeded to record saves in his next six outings to bring his season total to nine saves.

Overall, Strop is having one of the best seasons of his career. He has a 2.56 ERA and a total of 10 saves, a career-high by far. Still, in recent outings, the eye test has shown that Strop may be going through a bit of a down stretch, making even more evident the need for Morrow to return before the Cubs embark on a potential playoff run.

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Looking a little shaky

Perhaps one piece of evidence of Strop’s recent struggles is in the number of batters he has hit. In three straight outings from Aug. 15-19, he issued at least one hit-by-pitch. In his Aug. 19 outing in Pittsburgh, he hit two batters and issued a walk in Chicago’s 2-1 loss.

On Aug. 24 against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley, Strop suffered his second blown save of the season. He entered in the top of the ninth with the Cubs up 2-1 and promptly allowed a game-tying solo home run to the first batter he faced. The Cubs went on to win the game on David Bote‘s walk-off homer, but Strop’s blown save was another sign of some recent struggles for the right-hander.

Struggles against New York

Strop’s outing against the New York Mets on Monday at Wrigley provided perhaps the most cause for concern. Strop entered in the top of the ninth with the Cubs up 7-4, looking for their sixth win in a row.

Strop proceeded to walk the first batter, Jose Bautista. After inducing a groundout from Jose Reyes, Strop then allowed a single to Kevin Plawecki to bring the tying run to the plate in Jay Bruce. Strop was then lifted for left-hander Justin Wilson, who allowed a single to load the bases.

Jesse Chavez locked down the save for the Cubs by striking out the next two batters.

Sure, Strop’s struggles are nothing to be overly concerned about right now. But he hasn’t exactly looked sharp in his recent outings, making it even more evident how beneficial it would be for the Cubs to get Morrow back as soon as possible.

With Morrow, bullpen could be unstoppable

Right now, a Morrow return does not exactly look imminent. Morrow would need a few rehab appearances before joining the big league club, and there have been very few updates on his progress recently.

But if Morrow could return before playoffs, it would make the Cubs bullpen one to beat. Not only could Morrow help in times of struggle for Strop, but he could give the Cubs even more options in the middle innings to bridge the gap between the rotation and the bullpen. Strop’s recent shakiness only makes that fact more clear.

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Strop’s recent struggles are nothing to be too worried about right now, but they certainly come at an inopportune time, in the midst of a heated division race. It would be ideal for the Cubs if Morrow could return before October to provide some extra help to an already strong bullpen.

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