PHOENIX – With off days on either side of the Cubs’ three-game series against the Diamondbacks, the bullpen came out of Saturday’s 13-inning marathon relatively well, all things considered.
“This is the time of year when different guys get a chance to step up and make an impact,” setup man Mark Leiter Jr. said after the 7-6 loss Saturday. “And a lot of guys are doing that.”
Multi-inning efforts from Julian Merryweather and Drew Smyly, plus Marcus Stroman’s willingness to throw in back-to-back games for the first time in his career, helped lessen the blow. The six relievers Saturday combined to limit the Diamondbacks to one earned run through 7⅓ innings. The three automatic extra-innings runners who scored counted as unearned runs.
First, the game showed how manager David Ross is thinking through high-leverage innings with veteran Michael Fulmer and closer Adbert Alzolay on the 15-day IL with strained right forearms.
Sidearmer Jose Cuas came in with runners on first and second and one out in the sixth inning. He got out of it unscathed. Then, Leiter retired three straight batters in the seventh inning, and Merryweather allowed just one baserunner in two innings, on what was scored a fielding error. But the score was still tied.
“Stro, first thing when he came in [Saturday], was like, ‘I feel great. Use me how you want to use me,’ ” Ross said. “So I trust in him. He knows his body really well.”
Ross went to Stroman in the 10th. He allowed an RBI single to Corbin Carroll to lead off the inning and then retired the next three batters.
Then, Smyly kept the game going into the 13th, allowing an unearned run in the 11th and stranding the automatic runner in the 12th. After getting the first out in the 13th on a sac bunt, he handed the ball over to rookie Hayden Wesneski.
Wesneski came inches away from securing the save on Emmanuel Rivera’s comebacker, which hit him in the right elbow and left a seam mark. Gabriel Moreno then hit a walk-off single, and it ended in a close game at the plate.
“It’s just frustrating,” Wesneski said Sunday. “To be one pitch away, or the ball to not hit me, or the ball goes five feet farther [and] Dansby [Swanson] catches it. There’s so many things that could have happened — he misses it just a little bit more, it’s a fly ball out.”
Ross said third baseman Nick Madrigal woke up Sunday feeling “pretty good” after leaving in the 10th inning with a tight right hamstring. Ross expects Madrigal, whose hamstring was surgically repaired in 2021, will avoid the injured list.
“He felt like it was just like some cramping and tightness,” Ross said. “But with his history, I don’t think he wanted to take a risk, we don’t wanna take a risk.”
Patrick Wisdom got the start at third base Sunday and has helped the Cubs weather injuries, first to corner infielder Jeimer Candelario (low back strain) and now Madrigal. Candelario, who has been on the 10-day IL since Tuesday, was cleared for low impact activity, including glove work on Sunday.
Alzolay was scheduled to play catch Sunday for the second day in a row. Fulmer said he had an MRI exam and was waiting on the results as of Sunday afternoon.