A month’s layoff did not affect Keegan Thompson or the quality of his equipment.
A few hours after the Chicago Cubs activated the right-hander from the 15-day injured list, Thompson tossed three scoreless innings in a 4-3 win over the Miami Marlins at Lone Depot Park. Six were killed. The Cubs scored three runs in the seventh on Patrick Wisdom’s solo homer and a no-hitter in the eighth.
Thompson felt he was going too fast when facing the first batter of each inning but was able to relax and get into a rhythm.
“It was good to come out there and show that they had the confidence to go in there and I could finish it,” Thompson said. “It’s great to finish the year and finish strong and not finish in the IL, go out there and keep throwing and give us a chance to win.”
Thompson was out with lower back tightness and will be used out of the bullpen, where he looks to build strength over the next two weeks. In 104⅓ innings entering Wednesday, Thompson owned a 3.97 ERA, 1.313 WHIP, 2.46 strikeout-to-walk rate and a 104 ERA+ through 25 games (17 starts).
“You never know with some time off how it’s going to react,” manager David Ross said. “There wasn’t a lot of pressure at the beginning of the outing, and he settled in. … I thought he settled in well once he got his groove and then shut it down from there. Never saw him flinch. He looked like a guy we’ve seen a lot of success with over the years.
Rookie reliever Jeremiah Estrada, whom the Cubs optioned to Triple-A Iowa before Wednesday’s series finale as the same move for Thompson, made a strong impression in his final outing.
The 23-year-old right-hander faced the first batter in Miami on Monday before recovering. Estrada completed his best outing since his debut in Toronto on August 30 with two scoreless innings.
Estrada’s five appearances — with two runs allowed in 5⅔ innings — represent a small major league sample size, but manager David Ross noted how the rookie flashed things.
Ross’ message to Estrada focused on continuing to work on his strengths and weaknesses because he could be recalled at some point.
“That’s some real swing and miss that stands out to me,” Ross said Wednesday. “He had a couple of bumps in the road there, which is to be expected. Just talking to him, helping him continue to grow and the things he wants to work on. Finding a solid routine that he consistently believes in and sticking to, working towards it.
“We’ve seen it before, some guy goes down and something happens here and they come right back up.”
Esteban Queiroz’s memorable night
Esteban Queiroz’s professional baseball career can be traced back to his native Mexico, where he spent his first seven pro years in the Mexican League.
He did not become a minor league affiliate until 2018 with the Boston Red Sox. Links with three major league organizations over the next four years eventually landed him with the Cubs as part of a March trade with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Queiroz, 30, made his first major league start on Tuesday and collected his first hit and made a pair of nice defensive plays at second base, prompting Ross to announce after the game that Queiroz would return to the lineup on Wednesday.
Queiroz led off the series finale and pitched another smooth game at second in relief of starter Marcus Stroman. His sacrifice bunt after back-to-back walks by Zach McKinstry and Christopher Morrell opened the scoring in the eighth.
A throwing error by Marlins pitcher Steven Okert on the play allowed McKinstry to score and Queiroz and Morel to advance to second and third.
“Once I saw the video, I think the pitcher didn’t think I had that much speed,” Queiroz said through a spokesman. But I’m just here to give my effort, give my 100%. I ran as fast as I could and I’m just here to help the team win, to give it my all and try to help them.”
While these final two weeks have no postseason meaning for the Cubs, they remain important for players like Queiroz who are cherishing their big league opportunities.
“It was a really humbling experience,” Queiroz said. “I dreamed of this moment. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. It’s something I’ve worked for. And (Monday) night they told me I was going to start the game.
“I started focusing on what I needed to do to be ready to get off to a great start. Three at-bats back in Chicago, I didn’t really pitch like I should. So I want to make sure I go out there and do well.
Marcus Stroman’s key pitch
The so-called strikes keep coming.
Strowman’s sinker has been particularly effective lately. After recording 14 called strikes with the pitch in his last start, his most since the start of the 2018 season, Stroman once again kept hitters guessing with 10 called strikes with his sinker on Wednesday.
Strowman, as he usually does, relied primarily on the sinker-slider combination against Marlin. He allowed three runs and five hits in six innings while walking one batter and striking out seven, one shy of his season high.
All three runs came on two home runs in the fifth. Nick Fortes took a 2-0 sinker deep to give the Marlins a 2-0 lead, and Leon Diaz followed with a solo shot two batters later.
“I liked it to be honest,” Stroman said. “Even those pitches, I could have thrown the cutter a little deeper. He took a really good swing at that cutter and then got the sinker away. I probably should have thrown that sinker to middle-middle. You win and learn
“They could have popped it up and it could have been a different story. So, yeah, in hindsight, I probably should have done a little better with the location.
Ross credits Stroman’s use of the sinker as the root of the right-hander’s success since returning from the IL in July.
“She’s been her best pitch before she got here, but the main thing is that she came back to use her a little bit more and trust her,” Ross said. “That’s what I’ve seen and I think everything is off him. He’s a really confident guy, especially when he’s got that two-seamer and he’s off-speed to get off that strike. be successful