Fans at Wrigley Field for Sunday's Cubs home season finale took in a pair of promising performances from two guys set to be key contributors next season.
Keegan Thompson and Adbert Alzolay held the Cardinals to one run in 6 2/3 combined innings.
Thompson started, allowing one run and three hits in three innings. He struck out seven and his only blemish was a solo home run by Paul Goldschmidt.
“Keegan looked a lot more like himself, the guy we saw flashes of early on,” manager David Ross said after a 4-2 loss. “The ball was coming out much better. You see when the stuff upticks how good it is. It was sharp.”
Alzolay took over in the fourth and tossed 3 2/3 shutout innings, allowing two hits and a walk. He retired the first six batters he faced and worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth inning. He exited with two outs in the seventh.
Thompson and Alzolay are both rotation options for next season. The former struggled after joining the starting staff in August, following his success in relief earlier this season.
Also concerning was a mechanical issue affecting Thompson's command and putting stress on his shoulder.
He went on the injured list earlier this month and has had some success in a pair of starts since returning. The Cubs have kept a close eye on his workload.
“[Sunday] was definitely the best one I've had since I've been brought back up,” Thompson said. “We worked on a lot just mentally and working on mechanics and getting healthy again.
“We spent a couple weeks trying to get all that sorted out and it kind of showed today.”
It also gives Thompson something to build off as he looks to finish the season strong.
“It gives me confidence knowing that I can start,” he said. “I know I could come out of the bullpen like I did in the beginning of the year and throughout the middle of the year.
“Having a good outing today just kind of put me back in my place and let me know that I can start here.”
Alzolay shifted to the bullpen this month so the Cubs can monitor his innings. He’s been dominant, holding a 1.56 ERA in 17 1/3 innings across seven appearances.
He said his goal still is to be a starter — and he'll certainly be in the mix next spring. But his success in relief is also intriguing, as was Thompson's this season.
“I feel that I have proved that I can go up to seven innings, keep my pitches sharp, keep my velo there with my fastball," Alzolay said
“I can be ready if I go one inning — I know that I can be ready to pitch in two days — or I can have three days rest and come back and throw four or five innings.
"I feel that I have proved that I can be dynamic in that aspect.”