CHICAGO — It wasn’t always pretty Saturday, but perhaps the Chicago Cubs have found their formula for winning games via their bullpen — at least against lefty-dominated teams like the Washington Nationals. With three lefties to call upon now, manager Joe Maddon can play the matchup game to limit some of the better left-handed hitters in the league.
On Saturday, Brian Duensing and Justin Wilson were asked to face a lineup that featured six lefties to start the day. Duensing was great, while Wilson pitched himself out of a jam before Wade Davis walked his own tightrope. The bottom line is the Cubs won 7-4.
“It went well,” Duensing said of his 12-pitch sixth inning. “Executed some pitches in some good sequences. … Our scouting reports have helped out a lot. Having some success, confidence is high right now.”
Duensing’s confidence should be high, as he has been the surprise of the team — along with catcher Willson Contreras, who homered again. Duensing’s ERA dropped to 2.33 after his 1-2-3 frame. Wilson, meanwhile, isn’t having as much luck right now, but that can be attributed to a new league, team and situation in the standings. He’s walked three and given up four hits in three appearances since the Cubs acquired him, but he worked his way out of a jam Saturday even after a throwing error by Javier Baez allowed a run to score in the eighth inning.
“Walks are stupid,” Wilson said. “Stop it. Don’t let them on there for free.
“I grinded through it but not very pleased with it. Glad we won the game. That’s all that matters.”
Wilson gave way to Davis, who walked two batters himself but wasn’t scored upon, keeping his perfect saves mark intact. Pedro Strop also got through a clean inning, meaning Maddon might have enough lefty and righty options … if a few guys can settle down, particularly Wilson.
“We need to keep putting him out there,” Maddon said.
Wilson knows his adrenaline has been high since coming over from Detroit; he also found a flaw in his delivery he intends to fix. This is the time for everyone to work out the kinks, as there are more important games to come, including a possible October matchup with these Nationals.
“We have the guys,” Maddon said. “There is no question. Duensing was outstanding once again. We have to get Wade through an inning using less pitches. … We have to get beyond that so we can use him two days in a row.”
Of course, come October, neither John Lackey nor Saturday’s opposing starter, Edwin Jackson, is likely to start a playoff game, because both teams would probably like their guy to go more than five innings. For their part, the Cubs can feel better pitching to so many lefty hitters than they did two weeks ago. At that time, Mike Montgomery was in the rotation, Wilson was with the Tigers and Duensing was the lone southpaw.
“It does help because you can bounce things off each other,” Duensing said. “We’re three lefties but all different.”
Saturday might have been the formula, but when more is on the line, the Cubs will still have to pitch better. Wilson should get there once he has a few more outings with his new team, while Davis could be heading in the wrong direction — unless he finds another level down the stretch. That’s an unknown, but at least the arms are there, and they made the pitches when the Cubs needed it most Saturday. A winning formula.
“Today it all worked,” Wilson said. “But I would like to pitch better.”