While the Chicago Cubs have won a lot of games recently, the starting rotation has been a bit bumpy. Kyle Hendricks on Friday afternoon only lasted four innings after the relentless Atlanta Braves tagged him for seven runs in the fourth inning, ultimately turning what looked like the makings of a really nice start into a disastrous one.
Over the last five games, the Cubs starters have tossed 22.2 innings and have posted a cumulative 9.73 ERA and 1.8 WHIP. Only Justin Steele was able to go more than five (6.0 IP in his last start) and Jameson Taillon was the only one to surrender less than four earned runs (two in 5.0+ IP in his last start). Add in the massive struggles of Marcus Stroman in July, who is dealing with hip issues, pitching to a dismal 9.11 ERA over the last month. In his last start, he went only 3 IP, surrendering six runs in the opening game of the Reds series.
It is a good thing the offense came alive in July because it has really been the main factor in the team's recent success. There was once a time when starting pitching was arguably the biggest strength of the team. While Taillon has rebounded since the break, the recent struggles of Stroman and Drew Smyly (6.75 ERA in his last 12 appearances going back to May 28th) have shifted the feelings towards the rotation a bit.
Things get a bit more tricky with Stroman missing a start (at least) and the bullpen already having to work hard recently. The Cubs have already tried the opener with Smyly twice, once with Michael Fulmer and the other with Hayden Wesneski, so it's clear they are actively working through the chinks in the armor. This is where guys like Wesneski and Javier Assad become important to either spot start or eat innings in games. Worth noting Assad will start Saturday's game. Obviously, the hope is for Wesneski to be a full-time starter in the near future.
There is hope on the horizon in terms of young arms coming up as potential future starters, but for the time being the fans pray the current starters come back around. If Stroman can come back healthy again and pitch like an All-Star, that will be huge. Add on Steele hopefully keeping up his good work and Taillon keeping on trending in the right direction. As for Hendricks, he has had an awful time in his career against the Braves but has otherwise been pretty solid. It is a tough task for any pitcher to face that potent Atlanta lineup.