Posted on September 14, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Chicago Cubs are starting to lose their grip on the NL Central and now it appears as if they’ve lost closer Pedro Strop to injury. Strop hurt his hamstring during Thursday’s win over the Nationals. With the Cubs leading in the top of the 10th, Cubs manager Joe Maddon had Strop bat for himself so he could stay in the game to pitch the bottom half of the inning. However, Strop hurt his hamstring while unsuccessfully trying to beat out a double-play at first base.
Strop is set to get an MRI on the injured hamstring Friday. However, he estimated after the game that it’ll be a couple weeks until he’s ready to get back on the mound. With that timeline, he’s questionable at best to return by the end of the regular season. Strop’s availability for the postseason would also appear to be in doubt, assuming the Cubs secure a spot.
After the game, Maddon had to defend using his closer as a hitter. At that point, he wanted Strop to stay to close out a 1-run lead. However, with the bases loaded, a pinch-hitter may have been able to help the Cubs add a run or two to their lead. With the injury, the decision clearly blew up in Maddon’s face.
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“If we scored, he was going back out,” Maddon explained. “If you don’t score, he wasn’t. That was it. We scored. Listen, he hit the ball hard. This guy can swing the bat a little bit. That wasn’t a fluke. It’s just the fact he tried to beat it out, almost did and you can never fault an athlete for competing.”
In any event, Strop is now down for the foreseeable future. He’s been arguably Chicago’s most important relief pitcher this season. Strop is currently 6-1 with a 2.26 ERA. He’s also stepped into the closer’s role since Brandon Morrow went to the DL in late July. On the season, Strop has 13 saves in 17 opportunities in his first extended action as a closer.
On the bright side, Morrow is optimistic that he’ll be able to return before the end of the season. He has been feeling good during bullpen sessions and could be back sometime next week. However, Morrow is unlikely to be at 100% and may not be able to handle a prominent role after so much time away. That certainly complicates matters a little.
Maddon said he’s not sure who will serve as the team’s closer right now. Lefty Randy Rosario got the save in Strop’s place on Thursday. Justin Wilson and Steve Cishek both having experience as a closer. However, Carl Edwards Jr. may be the team’s next best reliever. Chicago’s bullpen has been a little more taxed lately, so it could be a matter of whose arm is freshest.
The bottom line is the Cubs are at a huge disadvantage coming down the stretch without both Morrow and Strop. Chicago’s lead in the NL Central is at just 1.5 games over the Brewers. Even with the wild-card as a fallback option, that’s a slim lead, especially with the team facing serious questions in their bullpen.
“We need (Strop) back, and obviously, we need (Morrow) back too,” Javier Baez said after Thursday’s game. “With both of our closers now down, it getting close to October, hopefully, they get better soon and join the team as soon as they can.”