Cubs to start Marcus Stroman Saturday, his first start since July 31, as Chicago clings to wild-card spot

The Cubs entered Friday’s action tied with the Marlins for the third and final NL wild-card spot at 79-74. They grabbed a 6-0 win over the Rockies on the strength of Jameson Taillon’s pitching and Seiya Suzuki’s bat. The good news continued postgame, as Cubs manager David Ross closed his press conference by announcing Marcus Stroman as the starting pitcher for Saturday’s game.

The previously scheduled starter for Saturday’s bout was rookie left-hander Jordan Wicks. He was thrown into the proverbial fire due to some issues with the pitching staff and pitched to a 2.67 ERA in his five starts. One of the issues was Stroman’s injury, a fractured rib cartilage suffered in August as he was recovering from another injury. 

Stroman was activated from the injured list last week and there were questions as to how the Cubs would use him. He pitched last Friday, the first game he was active, and went two scoreless innings on 31 pitches. He also pitched Saturday in extra innings, throwing 13 pitches in his one inning of work. He’s apparently shown no ill effects from the outings, and that’s especially encouraging since he pitched on back-to-back days. 

Stroman will have had five days of rest before appearing in his start Saturday and that’s plenty when he’s fully stretched out. The intriguing thing here will be how deep into the game the Cubs let Stroman work and how they’ll set up the rest of the game. If he’s efficient, maybe he could go four or even five innings with a pitch count in the 50s? Maybe the plan is to have the righty Stroman throw 2-3 innings with the southpaw Wicks to piggy-back him and go deep into the game. If the duo could finish the game, it would be ideal, as the once-reliable relievers at the back end of the bullpen for the Cubs are either injured (Adbert Alzolay) or have melted down recently (Julian Merryweather, Mark Leiter Jr.). 

The Cubs are 80-74 with eight games to play. The are locked in a race for the final two wild-card spots with the Diamondbacks, Marlins and Reds with the Giants and Padres hovering on the periphery. 

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