Cubs walk off for sweep over Dodgers as home-grown pitching talent emerges

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo reacts after driving in the winning run against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the 11th inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The Cubs won 6-5.

    Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo reacts after driving in the winning run against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the 11th inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The Cubs won 6-5.

 
Updated 5/5/2021 11:36 PM

The past two days were a good showcase for the Cubs' pitching development.

The organization took some flak for not developing any homegrown starting pitchers during the Theo Epstein-Jed Hoyer era. But Wednesday featured a start from Adbert Alzolay, the day after Keegan Thompson and Justin Steele played key roles in a extra-inning win over the Dodgers.

 

Alzolay produced another solid performance, with 7 strikeouts and just 3 hits over 5 innings. The Cubs finally won 6-5 in 11 innings to earn a series sweep over the Dodgers. Anthony Rizzo drove in the game-winner with a single to the left side of the infield, which beat the shift and scored Matt Duffy from second with the game-winner. Duffy kept the game alive with a two-out RBI single after the Cubs' first two batters in the 11th struck out.

Alzolay threw 79 pitches before leaving for a pinch hitter and could be seen walking to the clubhouse with the trainer after leaving the mound.

All three of the pitchers mentioned began in the Cubs organization. Alzolay and Steele started together in 2014 in the Arizona rookie league. Thompson was a 2017 third-round draft pick out of Auburn.

Steele said he was well aware of the Cubs' reputation, and how there aren't many pitchers listed among the club's top prospect rankings beyond Brailyn Marquez, typically at No. 1.

"I'm not going to say we've been bashed, but people have definitely undervalued us," Steele said. "Now we're finally getting here to Chicago and we are finally being able to see what we've been working on and what we've been doing. Just shining a light on the pitching farm system."

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Both Alzolay and Steele learned sliders last summer while they logged time at the South Bend alternate site. The minor-league seasons were canceled by the pandemic in 2020.

Alzolay's slider has quickly become one of the most successful pitches in the majors. According to baseballsavant.com. It's the most effective pitch on the Cubs' staff, and opposing batters are hitting .114 against it.

Alzolay rolled through the Dodgers' order in the first inning, then was touched for a solo home run by Max Muncy in the fourth and RBI double from Gavin Lux in the fifth.

It's unclear if Thompson will get a chance to stay in the rotation, but manager David Ross has taken notice of some young talent moving into the majors. Steele also was a starter throughout his minor-league career. Steele and Thompson have gone through Tommy John surgery.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I think it's been something that has been a focus here of trying to be better," Ross said. "I think that shows we're getting on the right track. I think the front office, player development and the pitchers themselves have all put in a lot of hard work. It's nice to see."

After sweeping a doubleheader Tuesday against the defending World Series champs, the Cubs did a nice job of staying in Wednesday's contest. Trailing 2-0, Jake Marisnick tied it in the fifth with a 2-run homer. The Dodgers took a 3-2 lead against Kyle Ryan in the sixth, before the Cubs tied it in the eighth on Javy Baez's fielder's choice, which following an error on LA shortstop Corey Seager.

In the top of the 11th, the Cubs had a chance to get out of the inning with no damage, but with runners on the corners and one out, Rizzo fielded a sharp grounder near first and attempted the double play. Problem was, Baez thought Rizzo stepped on the base and tagged runner Will Smith at second. It's not clear if Baez could have turned the double play, but if Rizzo had stepped on first, the inning would have been over.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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