Alzolay delivers strong performance despite loss to Sox

Cubs manager David Ross has said he plans to focus on winning games, not player development the rest of the season. But this was one of those occasions when a developing situation was good news.

Adbert Alzolay turned in one of his best performances in the majors during Saturday's 4-0 loss to the White Sox at Wrigley Field. The result wasn't friendly, but it was the first time Alzolay did not give up a home run or a walk.

"Overall, I think today has been the best day I have feeling with all my pitches," Alzolay said. "I feel my mechanics, my delivery, everything was in sync today. The changeup was a really, really huge piece today in my game."

Throughout this season, Alzolay has been mostly good, with an obvious weakness for giving up home runs to left-handed hitters. On Saturday, Alzolay gave up 2 runs in the first inning on a couple of softly-hit infield singles, followed by a 2-run double by Yoan Moncada. He rolled through the next 5 innings, finally leaving with 2 outs in the seventh with the score still 2-0.

"I would say command to both sides of the plate was what stood out to me," Ross said. "I thought he did phenomenal, one of the better outings I've seen him throw."

Last year Alzolay spent a lot of time at the Cubs' alternate site in South Bend learning a cutter and slider. This year, his game recaps have featured a variety of pitch mixes. Sometimes he relies heavily on the slider. Sometimes he uses the cutter frequently, other games barely at all. Same thing with the changeup, which disappears from his repertoire at times.

"For me it's more like learning how to mix and match my pitches," Alzolay said. "Learning 'OK, this is the way this pitch works with this pitch.' So for me, it's still a learning process, I haven't been a full year with two of my pitches I just learned.

"So for me it's still like trying to find those moments, where to work with that pitch. Knowing that it can be safe to use that pitch in that moment, even if you miss. So for me it's been more of that, knowing my pitches, knowing what are the swing and misses with those pitches, mixing and matching them."

Alzolay's record dropped to 4-12 on the season and he hasn't recorded a victory since June 2. But in his first full seasons in the majors, he often appears to be a few pitches away from becoming a solid starter.

"I feel that now all the work that we've been putting in behind the scenes is paying off," he said. "I feel the way we were mixing pitches today, the sinker, the four-seam, the changeup, the backdoor slider against the lefty. It was pretty good and it allowed me to set them up for the changeup late in the count."

The Sox hit back-to-back homers against Trevor Megill in the eighth inning and Cubs hitters couldn't do much against Carlos Rodon, who struck out 11 in 5 innings.

"I thought we got in some decent counts," Ross said of Rodon. "He just made pitches. He was really effective. We just weren't able to square much up at all."

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