Inconsistency has been the recent norm when it comes to the Cubs’ bullpen. While the starters have been strong since the All-Star Break, the relievers have caused a big more stress for Cubs fans.
Thursday’s loss against the Cincinnati Reds is a perfect example of the bullpen’s inconsistencies and general woes as of late.
After Jon Lester started, got shelled and eventually injured, Mike Montgomery stepped in and pitched phenomenally in relief. He allowed just three hits, one walk, and no runs in 4.1 innings of relief, slowing Cincinnati down while the Chicago offense played catch up.
After Montgomery, however, is where things went south.
Manager Joe Maddon surprisingly elected to use three of his least reliable arms in the later innings Thursday, as Justin Grimm, Justin Wilson, and Hector Rondon gave up four earned runs and six walks in two combined innings (Wilson didn’t even record an out).
This loss was a perfect example of the bullpen struggling in crucial situations (with the exception of Brian Duensing, who segmented the three aforementioned appearances with a hitless inning). However, this is far from the only sample.
Carl Edwards Jr., while seemingly back to form now, had a brutal stretch in the beginning of August (he gave up seven earned runs in 1.2 innings from Aug. 3-6). Pedro Strop, the club’s all-time leader in holds, gave up an unexpected and costly run against the Reds on Aug. 15.
Even Wade Davis, who is still perfect in save opportunities this season, has looked shakier lately. Since the break, his WHIP is 1.87, well above his season mark of 1.23 (and a stark contrast to his 1.00 first-half WHIP).
The issues don’t just lie in one place, they’ve come from all angles recently. Maddon’s moves have seemed questionable.
The Justin Wilson part of the Cubs’ trade with the Tigers has been a disaster so far (6.75 ERA, seven walks in just 5.1 innings with the Cubs). Even the best arms have had shaky moments in the last several games.
Earlier this season, the bullpen was a strength for the North Siders. Now, with a tight division race and the playoffs looming, they need their relievers to return to form if they want to contend for another World Series.