Stroman returns, not quite back to 100% for Cubs in 3-1 loss

The Cubs starting rotation was finally whole, but not quite 100% healthy.

Marcus Stroman returned to the mound for the first time in 18 days after COVID kept him at home. He pitched well in four of his five innings, but gave up 3 runs in the fourth and the Cubs lost to Arizona 3-1 on Thursday at Wrigley Field.

"I felt a lot better than I thought, to be honest," Stroman said. "Definitely a lot of dry work in the mirror, definitely a priority on keeping my mechanics as simple as possible today. I thought I competed pretty well and I was in the zone.

"I've had layoffs like that in the past and have been kind of all over the place. Just to be around the zone and give my team a chance, it's something good to build off of."

Stroman rolled through the Arizona batting order the first time, needing just 33 pitches to get through the first three innings. But when he saw everyone a second time in the fourth inning, it was a different story.

Catcher Daulton Varsho led off with a home run to center field and the Diamondbacks eventually scored 3 runs on 4 hits in the inning. They got just 2 hits in the other eight innings.

"I thought he was really sharp the first three," manager David Ross said. "He just looked really, really good. To find his rhythm, was pounding the zone, wasn't getting behind."

In Stroman's last outing, he threw 7 scoreless innings at Milwaukee, then was scratched the night before his next scheduled start against the Dodgers.

"It was tough," he said. "My family had it. I was just really, really tired. I couldn't move. Pretty much just in bed, didn't have the energy to do anything. Just took the days I needed and the second I felt good, I ramped right back up and started preparing to get back out there."

Stroman said he was able to throw a little bit with reliever David Robertson, who went through the same thing.

The Cubs got plenty of swings with runners on base. In the fifth inning, Gallen gave up 2 walks and hit Willson Contreras to load the bases. Ian Happ stepped in next and fouled off seven pitches before grounding out to second base on the 10th pitch of the at-bat.

The Cubs caught a break in the eighth inning when Arizona first baseman Christian Walker misjudged, then dropped an infield pop up by Seiya Suzuki.

One out later, Frank Schwindel doubled into the left field corner to put the tying runs in scoring position. This time, Patrick Wisdom hit six foul balls before striking out on the ninth pitch of the at-bat against Ian Kennedy.

Left-handed reliever Brandon Hughes made his second appearance and struck out the first batter he faced. That meant the first six outs of his big-league career were whiffs (with one walk). Shortstop Gerardo Perdomo finally ended the streak with a deep lineout to left, before Hughes retired the side in order in the eighth inning.

Christopher Morel got another start at second base on Thursday. He moved to center field late in the game after Ross pinch-hit for Rafael Ortega. Morel had some trouble with a deep fly ball that might have been catchable at the wall. It ended up a two-out double by David Peralta, but the Cubs got out of the inning with no further damage.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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Cubs starting pitcher Marcus Stroman pauses after the Arizona Diamondbacks scored 2 runs during the fourth inning on Thursday. After retiring the first nine Arizona batters, Stroman gave up 3 runs that inning. Associated Press
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