CINCINNATI — Adbert Alzolay was unhappy after his last start, in which he allowed a season-high six runs against the Dodgers. But despite the rough outing, he felt as if he could shake it off and get back to being the pitcher who had gone seven consecutive games allowing three earned runs or less.
Each outing has been a part of the process in Alzolay’s growth and development as a starting pitcher. Flushing a poor performance and moving on to the next start is an important step in that maturation process.
The young right-hander got himself back on track in the Cubs’ 3-2 loss to the Reds on Saturday, putting together one of the better starting stints the team has had in a while.
“I wasn’t worried about getting hitters into deep counts or walking guys, because I know who I am as a pitcher,” Alzolay said. “So that was my whole mindset. I just came back today and gave the team seven innings.”
Alzolay at times has flashed the ability to dominate lineups, strike hitters out and avoid walks, but in this start against the Reds, he did all those things. He was efficient, which he has worked toward.
“That’s a part of the maturation process,” manager David Ross said before the loss, the team’s eighth in a row. “The best ones I’ve ever been around have bad starts and short starts. You try to figure out where you got out of whack and what went wrong.
“Perspective is a good thing. We get to sit back and watch your start on video, reassess and get back to work in the bullpen. That’s what the great ones do. They will flush it.”
The right-hander mowed down the Reds through six innings, retiring 18 of the first 21 batters while throwing just 69 pitches. He find a consistent rhythm and kept his pitch count down, which allowed him to go deep into the game.
Alzolay’s slider has become a weapon in his repertoire and it has meshed well with his sinker and two-seam fastball. But as he continues to develop his arsenal, the changeup has become a bigger focal point.
“We had a really good plan,” Alzolay said. “We executed the plan the way that we wanted to. Two bad pitches there. It happens when you’re facing good hitters and you miss your spot. But this was a really nice step forward to include my changeup more into my stuff.”
“I thought he had a great start,” Ross said. “Really got out and fixed a lot of things that he had worked on.”
Alzolay made it through the seventh inning, but not without some stress. He walked the leadoff hitter, and after a double put runners on second and third with one out, -Eugenio Suarez hit an RBI single to give the Reds a 3-2 lead. Alzolay allowed three runs on five hits over those seven innings with one walk and six strikeouts in a quality start.
Alzolay was the first Cubs starter other than Kyle Hendricks to complete seven innings since he did it on May 22 against the Cardinals.
Unfortunately for Alzolay, the lineup failed to give him much run support. In extending their losing streak, the Cubs fell to third place in the National League Central. While the lack of offense might irk some young starters, Alzolay hasn’t put any additional pressure on himself to perform.
“We already have a lot of pressure when we are on the mound,” he said. “So when you’re facing a good lineup like today, if you keep putting more pressure on yourself, you won’t get good results. We’re having a little bit of struggles, but I just go out and try to do my job.”