Coors Field can be daunting for pitchers due to its huge outfield and notoriously challenging atmosphere.
A four-game series against the Colorado Rockies will test the Chicago Cubs’ defense and pitching team. They survived a few shaky moments in both areas in Thursday’s 5-2 win to open the series. A three-run first inning gave the Cubs enough cushion to hold on. And with that win came three takeaways.
1. Keegan Thompson’s versatility is a boon to the pitching team.
The Cubs right-hander knew he would be serving in Thursday’s series opener at Coors Field.
There was a plan for Thompson to piggyback starter Justin Steele. However, the game situation Thompson was called into wasn’t ideal.
Manager David Ross first went to right-hander Ethan Roberts to offload Steele with an out in fifth and the runners in first and second. But Roberts fought: All four hitters he faced made it to base, the only one to come up with a base-running miscue that resulted in Yonathan Daza being knocked out of left field in third.
Robert’s second walk through the inning to load the bases prompted Ross to bring in Thompson to get out of the mess while the Cubs tried to hold on to a one-run lead. Thompson needed three pitches to escape to left field on a 2-0 line.
“It’s a big situation, you just have to try to stay calm and throw punches,” Thompson told the Tribune. “The first two I drew but the second (cutter) he was sitting fastball I think and I got him off the end of the bat so he just missed the run.”
Thompson hadn’t pitched since Saturday against the Milwaukee Brewers — also a goalless performance (2⅔ innings) — so he threw about 12 pitches into the bullpen during Wednesday’s game at PNC Park to stay ready. He delivered when the Cubs needed him on Thursday. Thompson didn’t require strikeouts to be effective: He hammered the hitting zone and just outside it, forcing Colorado’s batsmen into difficult spots and putting the ball in play.
Thompson scattered three hits, all singles, in 3⅓ innings. He didn’t walk a hitter and knocked out one.
“I’m enjoying this,” Thompson said. “I enjoy being able to go out there, whether I’m starting or a long relief, and really being able to go out there and give the team several innings.”
Perhaps Thompson will return to a starting role sometime this season. But right now, he’s an extremely valuable multi-inning arm for Ross. It would be difficult for the Cubs to deviate from a formula that works.
“There’s the starter and then the backend guys and sometimes the middle of the staff can go so many different ways and he just seems to come in and hit with good stuff,” Ross said. “Being able to get right-handers and left-handers out, giving a guy a run like that when you can get multiple innings in one night is really a blessing.”
2. Justin Steele made a sneaky start.
Steele didn’t stay in the game long enough to qualify for the win, but don’t let that distract you from his performance.
When Steele got out in the fifth with an out and two ons, the Rockies were still scoreless, but he was billed for the following two runs in the frame. Ross called Steele’s start “one of the best outings I’ve seen him do.”
Ross said the lack of clean play behind Steele cost the left-hander about 20 pitches and prevented an otherwise effective start from reaching seventh place. One of those games featured right fielder Seiya Suzuki and second baseman Nick Madrigal not communicating cleanly over a pop carried outfield and falling for a hit.
“I just focus on my breath and controlling the controllable,” Steele said. “That’s always something I like to focus on because there are so many things in this game that you can’t control. Once the ball is out of my hands there are a lot of things I can’t control.”
Steele was a bright spot for the Cubs in the first week of the season. He has allowed two runs over 9⅓ combined innings with three walks and nine strikeouts. It’s a long season but it’s impressive for the 26-year-old, as he did in a difficult environment at Coors Field on Thursday.
3. Frank Schwindel’s two-hit game could be the start of a good run.
When a player has six hits in their first six games and there are questions as to why they are missing, it usually means there are high expectations.
This is how Ross sees dizziness at the start of the season. Despite two two-hit games in its opening week, Dizziness didn’t look quite like the same hitter he’d displayed during his two-month breakout after last year’s close.
Sure, it was only 23 record appearances. But after a shortened spring in which vertigo was limited to 22 PAs by back tension, the Cubs first baseman is still looking for consistency with his timing and momentum.
Vertigo has been battling for the plate, making Thursday’s results remarkable. He pulled a slider deep in the hole at the shortstop for an RBI infield single in the first. Then, in the sixth, Dizziness took a 0-2 curveball from Rockies starter Kyle Freeland in the opposite direction for a solo home run, his first of 2022.
Ross isn’t worried about what he saw of dizziness.
“You feel like he’s tussling a bit and you look up there (at the scoreboard) and he’s got some pretty good numbers,” Ross said of Dizziness’ start. “He’s a rhythm hitter. The more he gets into rhythm as the season progresses, the better (he becomes). … He’s been batting all his life and will have his ups and downs, but he can hit a baseball.”
The Cubs have more contact hitters in the lineup than last season, which reduces the impact when vertigo is turned off.
Dizziness can be more aggressive when on a rhythm, which is a big part of its success.
“When I’m rolling, I feel like I can hit anything, no matter where it is, no matter where, at what pitch — it’ll hit somewhere,” Schwindel said. “I’m going to try to get the timing down and keep working, keep working in the cage and picking it up from there.”
https://www.twincities.com/2022/04/15/frank-schwindels-rhythm-and-keegan-thompsons-versatility-a-boon-for-the-chicago-cubs-vs-the-colorado-rockies/ Frank Schwindel’s rhythm and Keegan Thompson’s versatility were a boon for the Chicago Cubs against the Colorado Rockies – Twin Cities