At 4-1, the Cubs have ridden their starting pitching to the NL’s best record.
We are five games into the shortened season and the Chicago Cubs are at the top of the division by themselves. Despite issues within their bullpen, things are looking great on the North Side early on.
Before Opening Day, skipper David Ross had to readjust his original starting rotation following an injury to Jose Quintana. The veteran southpaw had sustained a thumb injury while washing dishes, resulting in surgery.
Yes, another Cubs pitcher hurting themselves doing non-baseball related activities. Two seasons ago, former closer Brandon Morrow injured his back while removing his pants. Also, who could forget when Sammy Sosa found himself on the disabled list after sneezing?
It is safe to say that accidents happen. With that said, Quintana’s absence has not stopped Chicago’s rotation from turning in several quality starts. In fact, after one time through the rotation, Cubs starters have yielded six earned runs on 14 hits in 30 innings pitched.
That might not seem like anything too special – but it is.
Leading the charge would be none other than Jon Lester and ‘The Professor’ himself, Kyle Hendricks. Of course, Hendricks picked up the start on Opening Day, keeping Milwaukee’s lineup off the board with a one-hit complete game en route to NL Player of the Week honors.
Over the years, Hendricks has shown that he has what it takes to be an ace. The 30-year-old right-hander has a great shot at ending the season with an ERA under 3.00. In 2016, Hendricks cruised through the World Series campaign with a regular-season 2.13 ERA – best in the bigs.
This performance nearly resulted in him receiving Cy Young honors. While it’s not surprising to see Lester putting together a no-hitter through five in his first start, Tyler Chatwood closed the homestand in outstanding fashion.
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Through six innings pitched, Chatwood (one earned run) struck out eight Brewers while walking only two. At the end of the day, Chicago’s offense backed him up with nine runs in a lopsided Cubs victory.
Anchoring the rotation would be 28-year-old Alec Mills. Mills made his Major League debut with Kansas City the same year his current team won the World Series. In his first start of the year, Mills worked six solid innings, giving up two earned – just the latest notch in the rotation’s belt.
Witnessing this starting rotation firing on all cylinders is something that needs to be celebrated. However, they can only do so much and cannot carry a bullpen that faults late. Guys are going to be gassed and may need to be pulled, so something needs to happen in the pen.
It would have been a shame to watch Lester’s performance being canceled out. However, it wasn’t the case and the Cubs picked up yet another win. At the end of the day, the Cubs starting rotation carries an impressive 1.80 ERA and 0.63 WHIP ahead of Hendricks’ second start of the year on Wednesday in Cincinnati.
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Hopefully, this rotation’s historic line will be stand the challenges of a second time around.