The Chicago Cubs didn’t get a complete game shutout from him. Heck, he didn’t even start the game. But Adbert Alzolay looked impressive his first time on the mound, and people took notice.
Did everyone forget that Kyle Hendricks would have customarily started this Chicago Cubs game? Some might have, but most know how important Hendricks is to this team. But the fans are so desperate for a homegrown pitcher; they were smitten knowing that Adbert Alzolay was likely to pitch in this game. He did, and he did not disappoint.
Tyler Chatwood–who pitched well–left the game after four innings. Joe Maddon didn’t ‘script’ this evening’s game, but he knew he wanted to get Alzolay into the game. If anything, he wanted to start him in a clean inning to make things easier. Up until Todd Frazier connected for a solo home run in the top of the ninth, it would have been hard to make it look any easier than he was.
Frazier’s long ball was Alzolay’s only mistake on the night. He walked two, one of them being Pete Alonso who hit a ball hard off Chatwood and into the left-field seats. So sorry if he was a wee bit careful with him. He struck out Michael Conforto for the first strikeout of his career. He then struck out the side in the sixth inning, finishing with five on the night.
In the ninth, it started to get a little too close for Maddon, so after a call to the pen, a visit by Willson Contreras, and finally the walk to the mound by Maddon–Alzolay’s night was done. He left the game with a 7-4 lead and tipped his cap to the fans as they cheered one of the first homegrown pitchers with potential in quite some time.
Steve Cishek came into close the game out and helped Alzolay earn his first big league win. After the final out, the Cubs held up their caps–just as Alzolay did–as they came together in the infield to celebrate the win. Just a little ribbing of the new guy, but if he pitches like this? That won’t last long.
Outside of Chicago, most won’t understand the excitement that surrounds Alzolay. A homegrown pitcher out of the Cubs’ organization is rare. Some, like Jen-Ho Tseng, had brilliant minor league careers but it didn’t carry over to success in the bigs.
On the mound, he looked confident. He was ready to pitch as the batter was walking up to the plate. The Mets are a different team than they were in 2015. This is a fact. But facing Conforto, Frazier, Wilson Ramos and Amed Rosario and striking them out in a row? That’s big-time pitching.
Plans for Alzolay haven’t progressed through tonight. With Hendricks out until at least the All-Star break, the Cubs will have to cover a few starts. Maddon could do the same the next time through and start Chatwood knowing he has Alzolay ready.
Whatever the case, it was exciting to see a Chicago Cubs player that came up through the system, signed at 17 years old, make it to Chicago–and then pitch well.