Stroman leading Cubs' 'very, very nasty' rotation by example

After Stro's latest gem, North Siders' staff owns NL's lowest ERA (2.74)

April 19th, 2023

OAKLAND -- When took the mound for the Cubs on Opening Day, he set the tone for a rotation that is deeper than it has been in recent memory by delivering six shutout frames. Now with four dominant outings under his belt, Chicago's ace has helped the club build an identity around solid starting pitching early in the 2023 campaign.

Twirling his fourth quality start of the season, Stroman blanked the A's over six innings in a 4-0 Cubs victory at the Coliseum on Tuesday night, securing the team's fourth straight series win.

Stroman's gem continued a strong beginning of the season for Chicago starters, lowering the rotation's ERA to 2.74 -- the club's lowest such mark through its first 16 games since 2016. Cubs starters lead the National League in ERA and trail only the Rays (2.45) and Twins (2.54) for the lowest mark in the Majors.

"That's going to carry us," manager David Ross said. "When we've had success here, [at] the end of last year, it's because of the pitching. We've built on that."

To Ross, Stroman's ability to adjust while he's on the mound has been key to his early success. That was evident in his first three starts, in which opposing batters compiled a .653 OPS when facing Stroman for the first time. The second and third times through the order, hitters have recorded just a .433 and .118 OPS, respectively, against the Cubs' right-hander.

That trend continued on Tuesday. Stroman threw 25 pitches in the first inning, loading the bases on a hit and a pair of walks but managing to get out unscathed. After A's right fielder Conner Capel doubled with one out in the second, Stroman retired his final 14 batters to keep the bases empty for the remainder of his outing.

"I just feel good -- mentally, physically, emotionally," Stroman said of being able to make quick adjustments. "I just feel like I'm very in tune right now, on and off the field. I feel like the defense behind me is incredible. They're giving me more confidence. I feel like the vibe of the squad and the clubhouse is amazing. I feel like it's everything, kind of playing into one."

"That's who he is," Ross said. "He's a competitor. He's going to rely on his strengths, and he knows some cues when he's not right."

Stroman joined Jake Arrieta (2016) as the only Cubs starter in the Modern Era (since 1901) with at least three scoreless starts of six or more innings through the team's first 16 games. He and Jason Hammel (2016) are now the only North Siders to allow two runs or fewer over 24-plus innings in their first four starts of the season.

Despite his success on the hill, Stroman had to settle for a no-decision on Tuesday, as Oakland's Ken Waldichuk, Sam Moll and James Kaprielian kept the Cubs' lineup at bay through seven innings. But Mark Leiter Jr., Michael Fulmer and Michael Rucker held the A's hitless through the final three frames, preserving the shutout.

That gave Chicago's offense the chance to burst out with a four-spot in the eighth, with Cody Bellinger, Yan Gomes and Nick Madrigal each collecting an RBI. Oakland native Nico Hoerner reached on an error to drive in the Cubs' fourth and final run of the inning, drawing loud cheers from a cheering section of approximately 40 of his friends and family positioned behind the visitors' dugout.

"We were fighting until the last out," Seiya Suzuki, who reached base in all five trips to the plate and scored the team's first run, said in Japanese through interpreter Toy Matsushita. "We want to continue this and make sure we keep on winning."

It all started with Stroman again setting the tone for a big night. And he's confident that the rotation will continue to lead the way for the club moving forward.

"We're very, very nasty," Stroman said of Chicago's rotation. "We have different looks. Everyone kind of has a different repertoire being thrown at you every five days. No one's similar, essentially. I love our mix. I feel like we have the type of group that can continue to get stronger as the year goes on."