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With the wind at his back, Adbert Alzolay takes another step forward

The Cubs right-hander wiggled out of trouble and got a break or two but continued to gain manager David Ross’ trust with 5 2⁄3 scoreless innings in a 1-0 victory against the Reds.

Cubs starter Adbert Alzolay allowed no runs on five hits in 5 2⁄3 innings against the Reds on Friday, with two walks and six strikeouts. The Cubs won, 1-0.
Cubs starter Adbert Alzolay allowed no runs on five hits in 5 2⁄3 innings against the Reds on Friday, with two walks and six strikeouts. The Cubs won, 1-0.
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Photos

The more faith Cubs manager David Ross shows in right-hander Adbert Alzolay, the better he seems to get.

‘‘I can feel that,’’ Alzolay, 26, said after pitching 5 2/3 scoreless innings and working out of several jams in a 1-0 victory against the Reds on a blustery Friday at Wrigley Field. ‘‘I feel the whole team is just putting more [faith] in me. You can feel the energy . . . when I’m pitching. Just keep doing a good job, and you’re going to get more opportunities.’’

Alzolay (3-4) literally had the wind at his back and was facing a Reds lineup without injured Joey Votto and Mike Moustakas. And with help from David Bote’s home run into the basket in left field in the fifth inning, he earned the victory by escaping two-on trouble in each of the first three innings before getting bailed out by Andrew Chafin with two one and two outs in the sixth.

After pitching seven strong innings in a 2-1 loss last Saturday to the Cardinals in St. Louis, Alzolay threw a season-high 103 pitches against the Reds. The Cubs (28-22) have won five consecutive games and 10 of their last 12.

‘‘For me, it was a great day on the mound,’’ Alzolay said. ‘‘I got in trouble the first three innings. . . . It’s just part of my development. Being able to get in those situations and then to get out of those situations, I feel it’s a huge step forward for me. Even [though] I got in some jams, I was able to keep pitching and executing my pitches and keep competing. That’s what it’s all about — keep competing.’’

With injuries mounting — right fielder Jason Heyward and second baseman Nico Hoerner are among seven players on the injured list, and first baseman Anthony Rizzo missed his third consecutive game with tightness in his lower back — the Cubs need their starting pitchers to carry a greater share of the load, and Alzolay’s start was another step in that direction. His streak of 23 2/3 consecutive innings without a walk was snapped when Max Schrock reached on a bases on balls in the second, but Alzolay still has struck out 51 and walked only nine in 49 2/3 innings this season.

As Ross noted, Alzolay made big pitches when he had to. With runners on second and third and two outs in the first, he retired Tucker Barnhart on a pop fly to shortstop Javy Baez. With runners on first and second and one out in the second, he struck out pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez — in his first major-league game — and got Jesse Winker on a deep fly to center that might have been trouble on another day.

But Alzolay’s biggest break came in the third. After walking Tyler Stephenson with two outs, he yielded a deep into the right-field corner by Barnhart that surely would have scored Stephenson. But the ball hit the warning track and bounced into the stands for a rare ground-rule double that kept Stephenson at third. Given a reprieve, Alzolay escaped when Kyle Farmer flied out to short right.

‘‘I think he gains trust every time out,’’ Ross said of Alzolay. ‘‘And I do think he’s learning things every time out of what makes him better. He’s someone we’re gonna have to trust. The starters in general have done a nice job of late. I can’t say I don’t make errors, too. Sometimes I may have a quick trigger, and that just is maybe my personality. But Adbert every time out has continued to pitch well.’’

Even with a red-hot bullpen, Ross knows he’ll have to lean on his starters more than he has. His increasing trust in Alzolay is progress for him, as well.