Cubs starting pitching was outstanding this weekend

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /
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Throughout this weekend’s Opening Series at Wrigley Field, two things really stood out: a drastically improved patience and approach from Cubs hitters and very impressive starting pitching in each of the three games against the Brewers.

Heading into the off-day on Monday, you can be sure plenty of folks will spend the day watching highlights from Marcus Stroman’s Cubs debut – and why not? The 30-year-old right-hander dazzled in his first-ever career start at the Friendly Confines. Although he came away with a no-decision, came exactly as advertised.

After hyping up the left-field bleacher crowd in pregame warmups, Stroman tossed five innings with just one blemish on his resume – a monster shot off the bat of Willy Adames that accounted for the only run Milwaukee managed against him. He didn’t allow a single leadoff man to reach, kept the ball on the ground consistently and flashed the leather, to boot.

Stroman’s performance came on the heels of left-hander Justin Steele’s strong start in Saturday’s win – a shutout in which all four Cubs pitchers used were homegrown. The young southpaw turned in five scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and a walk before handing things over to the bullpen.

Of course, on Thursday, Kyle Hendricks put together a dazzling performance, missing bats in a way he never did during an up-and-down 2021. The former MLB ERA champion turned looked like his vintage self, striking out seven over 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball to pace the Cubs on Opening Day.

Improved starting pitching is a ‘must’ for the Cubs this season

Coming off a 2021 season that saw Cubs starters rank near the bottom of all baseball in several significant statistical categories, seeing this group come out this weekend and step up in a big way was very promising. Obviously, there’s a long ways to go – after all, we still have 159 games to play here in the regular season – nobody is complaining about a cumulative two earned runs allowed across 15 1/3 innings of work.

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Veteran Drew Smyly will make his 2022 debut on Tuesday on the road in Pittsburgh opposite former Cubs left-hander Jose Quintana looking to build off the starts of Hendricks, Steele and Quintana. Like I said – there’s a lot of baseball ahead of us. But you love to see quality starting pitching early in the year and that’s exactly what we got this weekend.