In the past two games, the Chicago Cubs have only given up two runs total. Is this finally the start of what we have needed from the pitching staff? Even the starter that has struggled the most, Ryan Dempster, had his first quality start of the season. Carlos Zambrano might be returning to his dominant ways, and Matt Garza recently earned his first win as a Cub.
Ryan Dempster has been talked about the most in the past month. He was selected as the opening day starter, and perceived as the ace of the 2011 pitching staff. Until the other day, every performance of his demonstrated otherwise. He even managed to have an outing where he had 1/3 of an inning pitched, where he gave up seven earned runs on four walks and four hits. Speculation started stirring immediately about him being hurt or something else leading to his poor performances.
Two days ago, it seemed like Dempster was able to right the wrong, and finished with his best outing of the season. He did not receive the win, but only allowing one earned run in seven innings was like him throwing a no hitter after the way e had been struggling. The confidence should be back, and hopefully he will be able to continue his success.
On the other hand, it has been Carlos Zambrano that has been the best starter for the Cubs so far this season. This of course excludes the two great pitching performances by Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner, who immediately fell on the DL after their starts. Yesterday Zambrano pitched very well against the Dodgers, only giving up one run in eight innings of work. He earned the victory after the game, improving his record to 4-1. The man has had only one loss since June 25, 2010, giving him a 12-1 record since that loss.
Zambrano seems to be more poised on the mound with less anger. Maybe it is his new found ability to remain as calm as possible that has been helping him pitch successfully. Just because he has been the best starter thus far, does not mean that he does not have room to improve. Even though he has a 4-1 record, his ERA is at 4.23. If he can manage to lower the amount of runs he has given up, he will dominate in well more than the majority of his starts, and lead this team to victory.
With the newest addition to the team, Matt Garza just needs to figure out a way to win. That might have just been found, as his last start went eight innings giving up three runs while striking out ten batters in order to earn the win. He may give up quite a few base runners throughout a game, but having the third most strikeouts in the league is going to help level that out. If he can keep the base runners to a minimum, he will easily improve his win totals.
The makeshift starters in James Russell and Casey Coleman have not worked out the way Mike Quade quite hoped for. Every start Russell has had, has been a bust, and just leads the team further into the bullpen then they want. It technically is considered a bullpen day, as they do not expect Russell to get very far in the game. However, I’m sure they were hoping he would exit the game with a lot less runs than he has given up.
Coleman, who was battling for a spot in the rotation coming out of spring training, has struggled as well. In four starts for the Cubs, he has had one good outing, earning the victory over the Colorado Rockies. The other three have been nothing but disappointing, giving up four or more runs, and never getting out of the sixth inning. The starts have ballooned Coleman’s ERA to 7.36, and it does not seem like it will get any better any time soon.
Good news for the Cubs is the fact that Wells and Cashner might be back by the end of the month. Both pitchers, who seem to be progressing at the same pace, were able to throw bullpen sessions in Los Angeles. The two of them will be traveling to Arizona, where they will continue with their throwing programs. It seems like they will each need a couple of rehab starts in the Minors before making the jump again into the rotation. But having them back at the end of the month is great news for Chicago, as the miss their production immensely.
If the pitching can remain consistent to what has been seen in the past two days, without a doubt, you will see a few winning streaks stringed together by this Cubs team. With Pena finally hitting the ball out of the park, Soriano leading the Majors in home runs and the production out of the youngsters Castro and Barney, the Cubs could end up being a team to be reckoned with.