The Cubs took a 6-0 lead Friday against the White Sox before starter Keegan Thompson threw his first pitch.
By the third inning, that lead was gone, and Thompson’s night was over.
Thompson struggled in his two-plus innings, throwing 62 pitches before exiting (36 strikes). He threw 38 in the first inning, allowing four of the first Sox hitters to reach, two on back-to-back walks.
“Very poor,” said Thompson when asked how he would evaluate the outing. “With a six-run lead, it’s unacceptable to go out there and not be able to throw strikes.
“No excuse. I set the tone from the beginning on the mound.”
Thompson exited in the third with two runners on base and nobody out, and both came around immediately after on a Yasmani Grandal three-run home run off Adrian Sampson. Thompson ultimately was charged with five runs (four earned) on five hits.
Friday was Thompson’s third career start — second since being stretched out at Triple-A Iowa and joining the rotation last week. It's too early to make any declarations about his outlook as a major league starting option.
“I don’t think you put too much on the second time out,” manager David Ross said pregame.
But at the least, there are some early questions, if not concerns. In Friday’s outing and last Saturday’s against the Royals, Thompson’s velocity and spin rates were both down from his season averages.
Thompson’s four-seam fastball averaged 91.7 mph Friday, down from 92.5 mph against Kansas City and his 94.4 mph season average.
His cutter averaged 87.4 mph Friday, down from 89.4 mph against the Royals and his 90.2 mph season average. His spin rates were all significantly down Friday.
“We’ll have to try and look at it tomorrow and what some of the data gives us back,” Ross said. “It didn’t look like he had his best stuff tonight.”
Thompson said he isn't sure why the stuff is down but has targeted a few things to work on between starts.
"I’m getting a little quick to the plate and kind of pulling off, and my arm is dragging behind a little bit," he said. "So the balls are either getting yanked or they’re in the middle of the plate and just hanging from the hip."
The Cubs knew after Thompson and Justin Steele joined the rotation it wouldn't be perfect from the jump. Both have struggled with efficiency. Steele was in trouble throughout his start Wednesday, tossing four high-stress innings.
But they're also running out of time before the end of the 2021 season to see what they have in the young pitchers before next season, and whether they can be counted on as rotation options.
Thompson is already turning the page.
“You’ve just got to trash it and move on,” he said. “It’s hard to accept and hard to swallow, but you’re not going to have a good outing every single time.
“I need to get back out there and get on the bump and get ready for the next start.”