PITTSBURGH — Almost lost in an avalanche of Cubs runs Monday night at PNC Park was their most significant pitching feat in more than a week — or at least the most symbolic.
Left-hander Brett Anderson produced a quality start.
“Technically it was a quality start, but in my mind it wasn’t very quality,” Anderson said after a 14-3 victory over the Pirates in which he walked six and pitched the minimum six innings to qualify for the technicality. It was the Cubs’ first quality start since Jon Lester’s seven scoreless innings eight days earlier.
“My offensive performance was better than my pitching,” said Anderson, who didn’t throw a pitch with less than a four-run lead. He added his own run-scoring single in a five-run second inning and later drew a walk.
Despite the walks and self-deprecation, the sinkerball pitcher got 12 outs on grounders, including two inning-ending double plays. At one point he induced seven consecutive ground balls — “more what I’m accustomed to,” he said.
Certainly, the game looked sexy because of Addison Russell’s career-high four hits, three-hit games by Kris Bryant and Miguel Montero and Jason Heyward’s three-run bolt for his third homer in four days (his third homer last season was on June 6).
But for the Cubs — who led the majors in starters’ ERA by more than half a point last year, with a league-leading 100 quality starts — the progress of the starting rotation is far more significant than anything a stacked lineup does.
Other than the final week of last season, when starters were intentionally limited to prepare for the playoffs, the last time the Cubs went this long without a quality start was a 10-game stretch last July during their lone extended slump of 2016.
“They’re going to show up, they’re going to do their thing and they’re going to be fine — it just hasn’t happened yet,” manager Joe Maddon said of a rotation that saw its workload limited in spring training after returning its top four from a championship season that ended Nov. 2. “I’m honestly not concerned. As long as they’re healthy, I feel good about it, and they’re all healthy.”
This despite trips to the mound by the trainer after Anderson slipped to the turf getting out of the way of a throw by Anthony Rizzo, and then when he took a comebacker off his pitching hand.
“In four starts, I’ve had five or six medical mound visits, which isn’t ideal,” deadpanned Anderson, who has spent much of his career on the disabled list. “As long as it doesn’t prevent me from pitching, I’ll take it.”
Bosio takes personal leave
Pitching coach Chris Bosio left after Sunday’s series finale in Cincinnati to take care of a personal matter, the Cubs said. He’s expected to rejoin the team Monday at home.
“We’ll make the best of it until he gets back,” Maddon said.
Bullpen coach Lester Strode took over for Bosio, joining Maddon in the dugout. Quality-control coach (whatever that means) Henry Blanco is handling Strode’s bullpen duties.
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