Rookie Alzolay dazzles in pitching debut as Cubs top Mets 7-4
It was only fitting Thursday night that pitcher Adbert Alzolay made his major-league debut for the Chicago Cubs by following Tyler Chatwood into the game.
Alzolay is that rarest of rare breeds: a homegrown pitcher from the Cubs organization.
That the Cubs had to go out and sign Chatwood to a three-year, $38 million contract before the 2018 season is partly the result of nothing much coming down the pipeline. Oh, there has been a Jen-Ho Tseng here, a Duane Underwood there and a Pierce Johnson over there, but not much impact.
The Cubs did bring Kyle Hendricks and Carl Edwards Jr. up from their minor-league system, but they were obtained in trades.
Alzolay was more than impressive, working 4-plus innings into the ninth and getting the victory in the Cubs' 7-4 win over the New York Mets at Wrigley Field. He gave up 1 hit (a ninth-inning leadoff homer to Todd Frazier) while walking two and striking out five. As Steve Cishek came in to relieve Alzolay, those remaining in the crowd of 38,956 gave Alzolay a big hand.
"The best thing that ever happened to me right now," the 24-year-old out of Venezuela said. "Amazing. All the people were cheering my name. I just went out there and did my job, did my part. We got the game. It was just amazing. I was feeling normal the whole time. Just when I started going to the mound and when I looked at the hitter, I was like, 'Oh, my gosh, everything is coming true right now, the dream I always had as a kid is just coming true.'"
The Cubs are hopeful that Alzolay is the real deal and that he sticks long term.
It also would get the critics off the backs of the Cubs' scouting and player-development people.
"I think if you're running the organization it's a big deal," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. "When you're able to draft and develop or sign and develop players, yeah, there's something to that. When you have them right out of the womb, there's a lot of investment in that, right from the scouts to the developmental people to the big-league staff.
"There's always a sense of pride in developing your own. There always is. That's true if it's a shortstop or a third baseman. The fact that we've had a hard time developing pitchers that arrive at the big-league level, yeah, it's good to get your feet on the ground with that and try to recreate the template as you continue along. I think everybody takes a strong sense of pride in watching his development, yes."
Alzolay entered the game in the fifth inning with the Cubs holding a 6-3 lead, thanks to a 6-run third inning that rallied them from a 3-0 deficit.
He allowed a walk in the fifth but retired the other three batters on a popout, lineout and strikeout. He struck out the side in the sixth inning, with the fastball registering 96 mph on the scoreboard radar gun.
Chatwood's throwing error contributed to an unearned run for the Mets in the second. He allowed a 2-run homer to Pete Alonso in the third. The Cubs sent 10 men to the plate in their 6-run third, chasing starting pitcher Walker Lockett, who was making his Mets debut. Javier Baez gave the Cubs another run in the seventh with a solo homer, his 18th of the season.