'Sensational' Williams dominates former club

Right-hander tosses 6 innings of 1-run ball, adds 2 hits of his own

May 27th, 2021

Despite David Ross saying before Wednesday’s game that he tries to look at each outing by a starting pitcher individually,  knew he needed to earn some of his manager’s trust back.

Williams had taken four consecutive no-decisions prior to Wednesday's 4-1 Cubs win over the Pirates at PNC Park, allowing at least two runs in each without making it through five innings in any. The rotation, as a whole, had bounced back to record a 3.16 ERA over the team’s last nine games, but even Williams’ outing during that stretch (4 2/3 innings, two earned runs on May 20) didn’t contribute much to that recent success.

Williams said he and Ross had constructive conversations following some of his poorer outings, but the right-hander said he still needed to show he could be a reliable starter in the Cubs’ rotation.

“You have to prove it,” Williams said. “You have to show that you can do it, and you have to earn the trust of Rossy that you can get through those guys.”

Williams took that positive step toward proving himself in Wednesday's victory.

He had his best start in a Cubs uniform, earning the quality start with six innings of one-run ball. In his third start of the year against his former team (including his second in Pittsburgh), Williams needed just 71 pitches to make it through six frames for just the second time this season. He earned his third win of the year in the process.

“He was fantastic today. I mean, he was sensational,” said third baseman David Bote, whose second-inning two-run homer proved to be the difference in the game. “That was really fun to be a part of and play behind.”

“That was great,” Ross said. “MVP of the game, arguably.”

Williams was dominant through the first five innings -- and he was nearly perfect, too.

The lone hit he allowed through the first five innings came on a triple from Ben Gamel in the bottom of the first. The official ruling gave Gamel the hit, but Joc Pederson appeared to misplay the ball in right field. That was the lone blemish for Williams through the first five innings, as he went on to retire the next 14 batters he faced after the triple.

Williams was so good for the majority of his outing that, when he recorded his second hit of the night in the top of the sixth, he had recorded more hits at the plate than he had allowed on the mound to that point.

Williams earned his first win since April 17 and pitched six innings for the first time since April 5. He didn’t make it out of the fifth inning in his last start against the Nationals, but Ross had said that game, overall, was a step in the right direction for Williams. His outing Wednesday showed he could build on his previous start, which is another step toward proving himself as a contributor in the rotation.

“At this point in the season, you're trying to go brick by brick, and you're trying to improve every start and take a couple steps forward without taking some backward,” Williams said.

The Cubs have hit their stride in May, sporting a 15-7 record this month. Even as Chicago continues to deal with a laundry list of injuries, the Cubs have closed the gap in the National League Central to just a half-game, all while getting plenty of contributions from their less-heralded players.

But Wednesday was the kind of game the Cubs needed to win as they continue to chase down the Cardinals in the division. The rotation has helped lead the charge with its recent string of solid outings, and now, Williams has added an outing of his own to that trend.

“Just as a team, as a whole, we've really come around to be a little bit better version of what we thought we could be than when we started,” Ross said. “It's nice to see those guys throwing well. I think this is a team effort, as they would say. They're just trying to do their job, go out and give us a chance to win every single night.