If you were looking for Pedro Strop at Wrigley Field Sunday, you probably couldn't find him because he was at the beach.
Joe Maddon joked Saturday that Strop earned himself some time off at the beach because he's been working so hard lately ... and the Cubs manager was true to his word:
Outside Pedro Strop's locker. Maddon said Strop could go to beach today and rest since he's pitched so much recently. pic.twitter.com/JApCVf0GKo
— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) September 20, 2015
"Strop is not available," Maddon said Sunday. "He'll be at the beach."
Maddon and Strop's Cubs teammates carried the same sentiment: Break well deserved.
Strop had worked in four of five Cubs games prior to Sunday. He came in to stop the bleeding Saturday and put an end to the Cardinals' rally.
Strop picked up the save in the Cubs' fifth straight win, but the more important thing was who he did it against.
The Cardinals have had Strop's number this season, but he tossed back-to-back shutout innings against St. Louis in the first two games of the weekend series at Wrigley.
"My numbers against them have not been the greatest, but you know what? That's in the past," Strop said. "I'm always looking forward and hopefully I can just keep doing my thing against them and against other teams, too."
Strop came into the year with a career 1.64 ERA and 1.00 WHIP against the Cardinals, allowing just two earned runs in 11 innings.
He also started the 2015 campaign with 1.1 shutout innings against the Cubs' division rival, but then the wheels came off.
In seven outings against the Cardinals from May 4 through Sept. 9, Strop allowed nine earned runs on eight hits (including two homers) and five walks in only four innings.
Maddon doesn't know exactly why the Cardinals - in particular - gave Strop fits, but he acknowledged it may be mental.
"Some of it's been pitch selection and what he's throwing in different counts," Maddon said. "Stuff's always good. I think it's like anything else.
"I've talked about us having to learn how to win in St. Louis and Pittsburgh and feeling good about it, but there are times where a player will see a team with a uniform on and automatically do well - or sometimes not so well - against that team regardless of who's in the uniform."
Maddon also believes Strop has gotten over the hump against the NL Central leaders, thanks in large part to working out of Saturday's two-on, no-out jam.
"I just think he had to get through some negative mental thoughts and push beyond that," Maddon said. "What he did [Saturday] was spectacular. That was not easy to do.
"So you gotta give him a lot of credit. What he did [Saturday], that's the thing you're looking for moving forward, to really have him feel much better about pitching against this team."
Strop couldn't put his finger on why exactly the Cardinals owned him for four months this season, but he was sure to tip his cap to a St. Louis organization that has been tough on nearly every opposing pitcher the last 15 years or so.
The Cubs are going to need to rely on Strop in the postseason, whether that's in the one-game wild card playoff or a five/seven-game series.
If the Cubs do advance beyond the wild-card game, they'll likely have another showdown with St. Louis awaiting them.
Strop is a fiery guy, known for his fist pumps and primal shouts. He loves being in a pennant race.
"This is awesome," he said. "Anybody should want this, pitching in this kind of situation where you know everything counts for a reason.
"This team hasn't been in this situation in a long time and I'm so happy to be a part of it."