The Cubs are convinced that when they begin contending again for the postseason, right-hander Adbert Alzolay will be a fixture in their rotation.
Alzolay had a strong first half in his first season in the Cubs’ rotation but has had a tougher time in the second half as teams have gotten more looks at his stuff.
“Just looking for him to continue to compete,” manager David Ross said before the Cubs’ 4-0 loss Saturday against the White Sox. “I don’t think he’s changed anything; it’s just about going through the learning process of getting better.
“He’s getting his first full season under his belt at the big-league level. There are gonna be some lumps and bumps in the road. He’s got to make adjustments and continue to execute.”
Against the Sox, he had his best outing in more than a month and resembled the pitcher who showed so much promise in the first half. Coming into the game, Alzolay had a 6.00 ERA in his previous seven starts since coming off the injured list with a blister in mid-June.
After allowing two runs in the first inning courtesy of a few soft singles and a two-out double by Yoan Moncada, Alzolay got locked in and began to mow down the Sox’ lineup.
“I think today [was] the best day that I’ve had feeling for all my pitches,” Alzolay said. You know, I feel like my mechanics, my delivery, everything was in sync today.”
Alzolay has had success against right-handed hitters this season. Entering Saturday, right-handed opponents had a .184 batting average against Alzolay with a .525 OPS.
But left-handed hitters have gotten the best of him. Lefties had a .284 batting average against Alzolay with a 1.022 OPS, and of the National League-worst 23 home runs he has allowed, 19 have come against left-handers.
He has been looking for different ways to attack left-handers and has been trying different mixes of sliders, cutters and changeups along with his two- and four-seam fastball. The changeup was effective against Sox lefties. He avoided major damage, kept the ball on the ground and steered clear of the long ball.
“All the work we were putting in behind the scenes, it’s been paying off,” Alzolay said. “We were mixing in pitches today — the sinker, the four-seamer, the change, the backdoor slider against the lefties. It allowed me to set them up for the changeup late in the count. . . . The changeup was a huge pitch today.”
Alzolay went 6‰ innings, allowing two runs and six hits. He struck out seven with no walks, the second time in his last 12 starts in which he hasn’t allowed a walk.
It was the first start of Alzolay’s career in which he didn’t allow a walk or a home run.
“I thought he did great,’’ Ross said. ‘‘I thought he commanded the ball really well to both sides of the plate. Opened up down and away really well to lefties. The changeup played nicely and got some really good swings and misses. . . . He did phenomenal. That was one of the better outings I’ve seen him throw.”