Marcus Stroman still working though rough patch as Cubs fall 6-5 to Reds

Notes: The Cubs promoted No. 1 prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong to Triple-A.

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Cubs starter Marcus Stroman pitches against the Reds on Monday.

Cubs starter Marcus Stroman pitches against the Reds on Monday.

Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Right-hander Marcus Stroman was one of the best pitchers in the National League early in the year. But he has hit a rough patch, and his struggles extended through the Cubs’ 6-5 loss to the Reds on Monday.

He allowed six runs in three innings. He hasn’t pitched past the fourth inning in three consecutive starts. Stroman left without speaking to the media after the game, but his past comments shed light on what he has been working on during this stretch.

“Ever since London, I’ve been off slightly mechanically,” Stroman said after his previous outing. “More so with my slider; the rhythm and the consistency of my slider just went a little off. I feel like my sinker’s good. But then when I go to get to my slider, I feel like it’s very different mechanically. So I’m just looking to find some unity, some uniformity. And I think I’ll get there.”

He left that start in London early with a blister on his right index finger. In six starts since, Stroman has a 9.11 ERA.

Against Cincinnati, he retired the first five batters he faced. But then with two outs in the second inning, Stroman surrendered four straight hits. All were struck with authority with exit velocities exceeding 99 mph. The next inning, Stroman didn’t give up as much hard contact, but he walked two batters.

“Swing and miss is always nice,” manager David Ross said before the game when asked what would demonstrate to him that Stroman had regained the feel for his slider. “The depth of the slider, the sharpness, body language of the hitter to take. I think his fastball command is really important, as well. It lets the slider play up even when it’s not as crisp.”

Stroman’s slider generated only one whiff, according to Statcast. And with Stroman battling his slider, Reds hitters had success sitting on the sinker.

Division measuring stick

The Cubs are adding to their team after a hot streak narrowed the gap between them and the Reds, who lead the NL Central. Now, with four games against Cincinnati at Wrigley Field, the Cubs get to measure themselves against the top of the division.

The teams had played five games against each other before Monday. They split a two-game set in Cincinnati, and the Reds swept the Cubs in three games in late May.

“They came in here and handed it to us pretty well,” Ross said. “As they left us, and picked up [rookie Elly] De La Cruz, as well, you see they’re a really good team. And they’ve played like it, and that’s why they’re in first place.”

But the Cubs are a different team now than they were during an abysmal May. The Cubs went 10-18 in that month. They have a 15-11 record in July.

Crow-Armstrong to Triple-A

The Cubs promoted No. 1 prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong to Triple-A, moving him one step closer to the major leagues.

Over the last two months in Double-A Tennessee, he hit .306 with a .996 OPS. He had 10 home runs and drew 22 walks in that span. Crow-Armstrong went to the All-Star Futures Game for a second consecutive year.

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