Cubs' Strop looks good as he picks up save
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Anthony Rizzo celebrates with Nate Schierholtz after Rizzo scored on Schierholtz's sacrifice fly to cap the Cubs' 3-run eighth inning Saturday at Wrigley Field.
On a day when bygones were bygones between the Cubs and closer Kevin Gregg, they got a nice glimpse of what the future might be in Pedro Strop.
Gregg and the Cubs buried the hatchet following Gregg's critical comments Friday as he perceived the Cubs were going to give Strop his job.
Strop then showed why that might be a good idea as he struck out the side with electric stuff in the ninth inning as the Cubs scored an exciting 3-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs scored 3 runs in the eighth to keep the Braves from clinching the National League East title on the field. The Braves had to wait to see how second-place Washington did Saturday night against Miami.
After the Cubs scored their 3 runs, manager Dale Sveum turned to Strop, who struck out Gerald Laird, Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton to record his first save as a Cub and his first overall since May 18, 2012, while he was with Baltimore. The Cubs got him in July from the Orioles in the Scott Feldman trade.
"It was fun," Strop said. "Every time you have the game in your hand, it's always fun when you get the job done."
Gregg's comments no doubt were ill-advised and ill-timed, but one little-known story is how much he has helped the young relievers, including Strop.
"We've been teammates before," Strop said. "He's been important in my career and my development.
"When I first got to the Orioles, he was there and was one of the older guys. He helped me a lot, to set a routine as a reliever. He's been helping a lot, the same like he used to."
Gregg, who apologized to manager Dale Sveum and team president Theo Epstein, said he was happy the Cubs did not release him.
Sveum expressed surprise that Gregg reacted the way he did initially. Sveum had said he wanted to look at Strop as the closer in the final week, not take Gregg's job from him.
"Yeah, I can't lie about that," Sveum said. "It caught me completely off-guard. I'll take some credit for that. I guess the communication, somewhere down the line, just got miscommunicated.
"But like I told you guys, we might give Strop an opportunity. And it is the same thing I told (Gregg). But I guess it got miscommunicated and obviously it turned into a mess. It's all fixed now, and accept the apologies and move on."
One inning to go:
Starting pitcher Travis Wood got another tough-luck no-decision as he worked 7 innings and gave up 5 hits and 1 run. His innings total stands at 199, and he will have 1 more start.
"They sent me back out there for it (in the eighth), giving me a chance to get it," said Wood, whose ERA is 2.98. "Unfortunately, I wasn't able to come through for me."
Carlos Villanueva came in and earned the victory to improve to 7-8. Villanueva is 5-0 with an 0.93 ERA in his last 8 relief appearances dating to Aug. 31.
The Cubs scored their 3 runs on Anythony Rizzo's RBI double, Dioner Navarro's run-scoring single and Nate Schierholtz' sacrifice fly. Rizzo's 62 extra-base hits are the most for a Cubs left-handed hitter since Corey Patterson had 63 in 2004.
Catcher Welington Castillo said he will have arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Monday or Tuesday. Castillo injured himself in Thursday's game at Milwaukee.
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