Stroman's arm and glove provides beacon for North Siders

May 25th, 2023

CHICAGO -- After the final out of his start on Wednesday night was converted into a double play, slapped his glove and then pounded his chest. The Cubs' pitcher bounded off the field, stopping in front of the dugout to unleash some celebratory shouts to his audience.

“We feed off that energy,” Cubs second baseman said.

Stroman had the Mets, his former club, in the palm of his right hand at Wrigley Field, where he leaned heavily on his signature sinker to guide the North Siders to a crisp, 4-2 victory. It was the type of performance the Cubs had in mind when they centered the construction of this club around run prevention.

The defense was in great form, helping Stroman generate 17 outs via ground balls over his eight innings. And the pitcher helped himself in the field as well, showing why he had a Gold Glove Award among his career accolades in a few key moments in the contest.

“I’m a shortstop at heart – I still am,” Stroman quipped.

“He acts like it,” Cubs manager David Ross agreed.

That was especially evident in the seventh inning, when Stroman pulled off the kind of jump throw that made Derek Jeter famous.

Brett Baty got the end of his bat on a pitch from Stroman that was diving low and outside. The ball chopped to the third-base side of the mound and Stroman reacted swiftly. The pitcher plucked the baseball from the grass and in one quick motion, leapt and threw to first baseman for the out.

“The jump throw was fun,” Hoerner said. “And the feed to Dansby, too, led him to the base. Huge.”

That play mentioned by Hoerner took place in the sixth. After allowing an infield hit to Mets catcher Francisco Alvarez, Stroman induced a comebacker off the bat of Brandon Nimmo. The pitcher snared the ball and fired it toward second base, where shortstop arrived and completed the double play.

Once the play was over, Stroman struck a pose on the mound.

“Some of the mannerisms you get from him just make me smile,” Ross said. “He's a good athlete.”

What’s it like playing defense behind Stroman?

“It’s the best,” Swanson said. “It makes our lives easy. He's obviously one of the best in the game at fielding his position and he obviously showed that tonight. His creativity and ability, it makes you feel like, ‘Maybe I can cheat or shade a certain way,’ because he's legitimately an extra defender.”

There was one momentary lapse for Stroman in the third inning, when Mark Canha singled to right and Alvarez followed with a two-run homer to the left-field bleacher seats. That was the extent of the damage against Stroman, who scattered four hits, issued two walks and struck out three.

Stroman got through five of his eight innings on 10 or fewer pitches, sticking with his sinker 53 times out of 88 pitches overall. He featured the sinker 60% of the time against New York, compared to 41.6% of the time on the season going into Wednesday’s outing.

“The sinker was sankin’, right?” Cubs catcher said. “It was fun. Nights like tonight, when he has the sinker moving like that, it's really tough to beat. It seemed like they didn't make an adjustment to it, so we just kind of kept going to the well and it worked. Really fun game to catch.”

Stroman’s eight innings were his most since July 21, 2021, when he logged the same total for the Mets. He lowered his ERA to 2.95 on the season and walked off the mound with his MLB-leading ninth quality start in the books. Stroman has yielded two or fewer runs in 14 of his last 18 outings for the Cubs.

He was one inning shy of his first complete game since April of 2018, but Ross elected to hand the ball to -- a weapon against lefties this year -- with Nimmo, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil due up in the ninth.

While Stroman admitted he “wanted a CG more than anything,” the pitcher added: “Mark's been throwing the ball incredible. I think Rossy made a great decision.”

As for facing the Mets, Stroman downplayed there being any extra motivation behind his stellar performance.

“Younger me may have seen it as a revenge game,” he said. “But now, I know how to pitch. I'm really good at what I do. And it's just a matter of getting to the point [I’m at] mechanically, and just rolling start after start.”