Chicago Cubs: Without Brandon Morrow, Pedro Strop, where do we turn?

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

With Brandon Morrow out until Spring Training and the uncertainty of Pedro Strop’s health going into October, some might say the Chicago Cubs deep playoff hopes are looking bleak.

If you’d ask me where my Chicago Cubs panic meter was the moment Pedro Strop strained his hamstring while running down the first base line in Washington D.C. last week after the moment, it would have been in the red.

I mean, they should not have even played that game to begin with. It was their 24th-straight day of playing on what was supposed to be an off-day with a hurricane in the forecast. The Cubs managed to pull through and now are in the home stretch, enjoying a much-needed day of rest Thursday.

Anyway, Strop had slipped perfectly into Brandon Morrow’s closer role since he hit the disabled list in mid-July. Extremely well, actually. So much, that, to be honest, I didn’t miss Morrow all that much.

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Since July 19, Strop boasts a 1.77 ERA, 3.64 FIP, a 52.8 percent ground ball rate, 18 strikeouts and only seven walks in 20 1/3 innings pitched. Most of those innings were in the ninth inning or later in high leverage spots.

He was reliable. Now, with his injury, it’s going to be a toss-up with him in the postseason. Hamstrings are tricky and the Cubs don’t want to make matters worse for one of their stud arms in the bullpen, so they won’t push him to return.

With the recent news that Morrow is out for the season, it adds another detriment to the team that is looking at the bigger picture: another World Series tittle.

Do the Cubs have enough in the tank?

I’m not sure if the Cubs can withstand not having Strop and Morrow out in October. They will need others to step up, which is no surprise: they’ve done that all season.

Kris Bryant missed the entire month of August. No problem. David Bote has become a nice story for the Cubs and a farm system that ranks towards the bottom. He filled in nicely for Bryant.

Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood have been absolute disasters in their first season with the Cubs due to injury and an inability to command pitches. No problem. Mike Montgomery has proven he can be a serviceable starter at the major league level this season. Trading for Cole Hamels has proven to be one of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s best moves for this regime.

Early in the season, there was a stretch of over usage in the bullpen and it forced major arms like Carl Edwards Jr. to miss some time. Randy Rosario was called up and helped eat important innings for the Cubs.

Now with the Cubs bullpen thinner, the unlikely have stepped up again, at least in the short-term. Dillon Maples is one that comes to mind. Maples hasn’t given up a run in his handful of innings. Even though it was a lopsided game in Arizona last night, Alec Mills pitched two clean innings, as well.

Jaime Garcia hasn’t given up a run since Strop got hurt and has now pitched twice in high-leverage spots. Jorge De La Rosa sports 2.57 ERA in September and, of course, as we all expected, recorded a save last Friday against a strong Cincinnati Reds lineup.

All these guys have small sample sizes in September, but I mention it because they’re production has allowed Joe Maddon to rest arms like Steve Cishek — who surpassed his career-high in appearances this season.

It’s allowed Edwards Jr. to take a step back, too. However, he will need to be ready by October if the Cubs plan to make a deep run. His 4.50 ERA in September is why many Cubs fans were in panic mode after Strop’s injury last Thursday.

The depth this bullpen has shown all season will be put to the test, but many Cubs fans would feel much better if Strop can come back strong for a deep October push.

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First things first: win the NL Central. the Cubs currently are 2 1/2 games up on the Milwaukee Brewers and the magic number to clinch is eight. With the lowly Chicago White Sox waiting this weekend, that number could be erased by early next week.

Let’s hope the Cubs can continue to push through this stretch.