The post-All-Star break surge that Cubs players and coaches tried to will into existence hasn’t yet come to fruition.
Sure, the Cubs (47-50) won a couple games against the cellar-dwelling Diamondbacks (30-68). But the Cubs’ loss Thursday at St. Louis was their fourth in five games, with just one of two ninth-inning comebacks ending in a win.
“I feel like we’ve been struggling overall, as a group,” rookie pitcher Adabert Alzolay said Thursday after the 3-2 loss to the Cardinals. “So, all we can do is keep picking each other up and coming to the ballpark the next day and try to win the ballgame.”
The conversation around the team is all about the July 30 trade deadline, even if talk among players, as outfielder Jake Marisnick insisted Thursday, strays from the subject.
Alzolay is an intersection between the two ways of thinking – just as important to the Cubs’ “one day at a time” mentality as he is to their post-deadline future.
For years, the Cubs received criticism for their failure to develop impactful homegrown pitching. Alzolay was the first sign that the trend could be turning around. Now, other young pitchers like Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson have fanned those flames of hope for the Cubs fan base.
As for the team’s in-the-moment mentality: “To get up above 100 pitches and give us six complete (innings) was a really nice outing by him,” Cubs manager David Ross said Thursday.
Alzolay battled command issues early Thursday, giving up a home run and issuing a walk to the first two batters he faced. But he settled in to record a quality start – three runs in six innings.
“I was able to make quick adjustments today during the game, pitch by pitch. That was something that I wasn't able to do against the Dodgers.”
Alzolay gave up an early home run against the Dodgers last month, too. But that inning spiraled, and by the end of the frame, the Cubs trailed by six runs.
Thursday was yet another moment of growth for Alzolay. And in the context of the Cubs’ impending retooling, those lessons carry more weight.