Could it be? Could the drought of epic proportions be over? The much ballyhooed talk of the Cubs not being able to develop any of their own pitchers looks like it might be history after Thursday night.
Mixing diving changeups, running fastballs, and nasty curveballs for four relief innings before Todd Frazier had to ruin the perfect ending in the 9th, Adbert Alzolay showed that he belongs on the biggest stage for a contender. He also gives the Cubs a bona fide starting option should the team deal with any more injuries or want to expand the rotation at any point. Or he could just offer high-powered length out of the ‘pen.
Coming into the game to start the top of the 5th, Alzolay got over a few nerves in his first inning and really settled in for three more afterwards. He struck out Michael Conforto on a changeup to end the 5th, then proceeded to strike out the side in the 6th. His repertoire and pure stuff looks as good as anything else we’ve seen on the Wrigley mound this season.
Alzolay hit 96 mph on the radar gun multiple times with his running fastball, worked briskly, and threw 35 of 55 pitches for strikes. The only real mistake he made all night came in the 9th after Frazier got tired of the quick pace and stepped out of the box for a few moments to gather himself. The veteran timed up a fastball and rode it out to left-center, effectively ending the stellar debut.
Perhaps more important than the statistics of Alzolay’s appearance was the unbridled joy that came through in his infectious smile and enthusiastic hat-tip to the crowd as he gave way to Steve Cishek. This is a guy who looks like he’s having fun out there and has the stuff to make everyone else sitting in Wrigley share that fun right along with him. And hey, you know you’re doing something right when you get Anthony Rizzo to lead the rest of the team in a mock hat-tip.
The Cubs hanging a six-spot in the 3rd inning had Wrigley rocking, but that was nothing compared to the excitement of seeing the 24-year-old righty dominate right away. While we’ll probably have to wait a few more days to find out if Alzolay is going to get a start for injured Kyle Hendricks, it just gives the Cubs and their fans more time to dream.
Whether those are dreams of finally developing that homegrown stud pitcher, of Craig Kimbrel joining the ballclub soon, or maybe of another October run, Alzolay made them feel a little more real.