Chicago Cubs experiencing the effects of a depleted starting rotation

(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: Thank God for Mike Montgomery

If not for Mike Montgomery stepping into Darvish’s spot in the rotation, who knows where we’d be with four games left in the regular season.

The man who stood on the mound for the final out of the 2016 World Series entered this year as the swing-man, despite his stated offseason preference to start. When Darvish hit the shelf, the left-hander got his chance – and he dominated.

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In six June starts, he pitched to a 2.83 ERA. He struggled in July, but then regained his form again in August – the month we learned Darvish wouldn’t throw another pitch this season. All told, he’s pitched to an ERA just under 4.00, splitting his time between the rotation and the bullpen – racking up some 121 2/3 innings.

But here’s where it hurt the bullpen. Montgomery’s role as swing man was a key one – he was the guy capable of eating multiple innings and serving as that bridge to the mid and late-inning guys like Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop and Brandon Morrow.

Instead, we had to go to Cishek early and often. The right-hander has already made a career-high 76 appearances this year (basically half the Cubs’ games) – and will likely surpass his career-high innings total this weekend.

Going to Cishek earlier meant, in turn, you then went to Carl Edwards, Justin Wilson, Strop and Morrow more often than you’d prefer. Then, once Morrow hit the shelf, not only were we subtracting from the front of the pen, but the back, as well. Toss in a Pedro Strop injury in mid-September and it’s pretty much a miracle these guys have held it together this long.