Cubs

Cubs: Joe Maddon still believes in Pedro Strop despite ‘strange’ struggles

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Cubs: Joe Maddon still believes in Pedro Strop despite ‘strange’ struggles

ATLANTA — Cubs manager Joe Maddon still believes Pedro Strop can be an important part of his team’s playoff push despite the right-hander’s pair of high-profile losses over the last week and a half.

Eury Perez’s go-ahead two-run single in the eighth off Strop sent the Cubs a 4-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves Friday night at Turner Field, leaving the 30-year-old to wonder how a promising first half has started to come unraveled recently.

In Strop’s last appearance before Friday, he gave up a go-ahead two-out two-run home run on a 1-2 fastball to St. Louis Cardinals All-Star Jhonny Peralta that delivered the Cubs a gutting loss to the National League Central leader. Friday in Atlanta was another frustrating night for him.

“I don’t know. I really don’t what to say about it,” Strop said. “It’s either been really good or either really bad. I think I gotta do a better job staying on one level. We all know we’re going to have bad outings but I gotta minimize it.”

[MORE CUBS: Cubs will give Kyle Schwarber a ‘soft landing’ at catcher]

Joe Maddon, though, said after the game he hasn’t lost confidence in Strop.

“It’s so strange,” Maddon said. “I have so much faith in this guy, I really believe he’s that good. He let it get away from him, but I really believe he’s one of the best. We just gotta continue to work him through this moment.”

The common thread between Strop’s two rough outings is a pair of walks to players to whom he should’ve pitched aggressively.

Before Peralta’s home run, Strop issued a four-pitch walk to a struggling Matt Carpenter (who had eight hits in his previous 57 at-bats). On Friday, Maddon had Strop intentionally walk A.J. Pierzynski with first base open to face Andrelton Simmons, who had a .233 batting average since June 1 entering Friday.

Strop walked Simmons, too, firing both a 2-2 slider and 3-2 fastball into the dirt.

“I wanted to throw a slider for a strike and I couldn’t execute the pitch,” Strop said. “I might’ve went too fine on that at-bat, I should’ve just attacked him.”

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Perez then jumped on Strop’s first-pitch slider and knocked it into right for the game-winning hit.

Strop said he’s feeling fine health-wise, though Maddon said it’s more mental and hasn’t seen him be assertive enough in recent appearances. This is a guy who had a 2.21 ERA for the Cubs a year ago and rebounded from a rough stretch in early May to post a 1.78 ERA between May 8 and July 7.

Maddon’s confident Strop can fix the problem again. But as the innings grow more important into August and September, the Cubs can’t afford to have Strop continue to give away close and late games.

“I know they’ve been rough performances lately, but I really think this guy’s outstanding,” Maddon said. “… We gotta get his confidence back up because stuff-wise, he’s got premier stuff. There’s no doubt in my mind.”

 

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 10th, 11th homers in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 10th, 11th homers in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa is heating up, but even a red-hot Sosa doesn't automatically equal wins for the Cubs.

Slammin' Sammy notched his first multi-homer game in 1998 in a 9-5 loss to Kevin Millwood and the Atlanta Braves. Sosa drove in 4 of the Cubs' 5 runs on a solo shot in the 4th inning and a three-run shot in the 8th. 

Sosa tallied 830 feet of homers in the game, with his first blast going 410 feet and the second shot measured at 420 feet.

The big game bumped Sosa's overall season slash line to .337/.411/.551 (.962 OPS) with 11 homers and 35 RBI.

Fun fact: Mickey Morandini hit second for the Cubs in this game and went 4-for-4, but somehow only scored one run despite hitting just in front of Sosa all game. That's because Morandini was caught stealing to end the 3rd inning, leaving Sosa to lead off the 4th inning with a solo blast.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: If Cubs somehow miss the playoffs will Joe Maddon's seat start heating up?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: If Cubs somehow miss the playoffs will Joe Maddon's seat start heating up?

David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Nick Friedell (ESPN.com) and Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun-Times) join David Kaplan on the panel.

The guys discuss Welington Castillo’s 80-game PED suspension, the Cubs struggles and if Joe Maddon could be on the hot seat if the Cubs somehow miss the playoffs in 2018.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: