(Photo credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports)
Fighting for a postseason spot, the Chicago Cubs hope one of their All-Stars can help them win back-to-back games for the first time in almost two weeks.
Marcus Stroman will make his first start in nearly two months on Saturday when the Cubs try for a second consecutive victory over the ColoradoRockies, who have lost their past eight road games.
In a surprising twist, Chicago manager David Ross ended his press conference following the Cubs' 6-0 victory over the Rockies on Friday by proclaiming Stroman (10-8, 3.76 ERA) as his Saturday starter.
The right-hander allowed six runs and six hits over three innings of a 6-5 loss to the Cincinnati Reds in his most recent start on July 31. Two days later, Stroman was placed on the injured list due to right hip inflammation.
It was uncertain if Stroman would pitch again in 2023, but he returned last weekend to yield an unearned run over three innings of relief in two outings at Arizona. He hasn't pitched since Sept. 16.
Stroman went 9-4 with a 2.28 ERA through his first 16 starts, but he went 1-4 with a 9.00 ERA in his next seven starts before landing on the IL. However, Stroman's intoxicating presence could boost a team that prior to Friday's triumph had lost 10 of the previous 13 and yielded 21 runs while dropping two straight to Pittsburgh this week.
"Any version we get of him is gonna be great," said the Cubs' Jameson Taillon, who struck out seven over six scoreless innings on Friday. "I'm excited to see him out there. He always brings energy."
Stroman is 4-2 with a 2.31 ERA in six career starts against Colorado.
Chicago (80-74) last won consecutive games on Sept. 10-11, yet the Cubs still hold a one-game lead on the Miami Marlins (79-75) and a 1 1/2-game edge on the Cincinnati Reds (79-76) in the chase for the third and final National League wild card.
"(There is) a sense of urgency," Ross told Marquee Sports Network. "We're all trying our best to win. We want things to work out."
Seiya Suzuki is doing what he can to help Chicago reach the postseason for the first time since 2020. In his past 34 games, Suzuki is batting .359 (46-for-128) with nine homers, 29 RBIs and a 1.112 OPS. He also joined Hideki Matsui and Shohei Ohtani as the only Japanese-born major-leaguers to record at least 20 home runs and 70 RBIs in a season.
Suzuki went 2-for-2 against Chris Flexen, Colorado's scheduled Saturday starter, during the Cubs' 6-4 loss to the Rockies on Sept. 12. Flexen (1-8, 7.19 ERA) gave up nine hits and two walks but just three runs over 5 1/3 innings of that contest.
The right-hander is 0-2 with an 8.20 ERA in four September starts for the Rockies (56-97), who have dropped five straight and have totaled two runs in the past three games. In addition to Suzuki's small sample size of success versus Flexen, teammate Dansby Swanson is 6-for-9 with a double and a triple against him.
Meanwhile, ex-Cubs superstar Kris Bryant is 3-for-8 against Stroman. However, he's 0-for-17 in the past five games. Bryant, who went 0-for-4 on Friday, received a standing ovation in his first at-bat from the Wrigley Field faithful, who won't forget his contributions in helping Chicago win the 2016 World Series.
"He's a big part of their history," Rockies manager Bud Black said of Bryant, who is 4-for-15 in four games against his former team this year. "They're very loyal to their Cubs."
After collecting two hits on Friday, Colorado All-Star catcher Elias Diaz is 6-for-12 against the Cubs this season.
--Field Level Media