Pitcher-catcher combinations making a difference for Cubs
The last three starts by Marcus Stroman made it clear how catchers can make a difference.
Tucker Barnhart caught Stroman's 1-hit shutout of Tampa Bay on Monday and his eight-inning victory over the Mets. Before that, Yan Gomes started behind the plate when Stroman got clobbered in Minnesota.
Overall, Stroman has a 1.54 ERA when throwing to Barnhart and 3.94 with Gomes. Those numbers would be closer to even without that Minnesota game. The two catchers have made six starts each with Stroman.
On the other hand, Drew Smyly has had more success with Gomes, with a 2.74 ERA, compared to 5.79 in three starts with Barnhart. Justin Steele has been pretty good with both catchers, Jameson Taillon not so good with either catcher.
Manager David Ross, a former catcher, acknowledged he does make out the lineups with battery mates in mind.
"For sure I pay attention to that," Ross said. "I actually talked to Tucker early on this season about pairing those two together as consistently as possible. Also talked to Yan and Smyly. I try to put those guys together even if offensively it's not the best matchup.
"One thing we've run into is Yan's really good offensively against lefties and Stro has opposed some lefties, so that's kind of negated some of that. I've talked to all those guys about where I see the best fit and try to match them up as often as possible."
Happ glad to walk:
Manager David Ross went back to Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson in the top two spots in the order after changing it up Monday. Hoerner led off Tuesday's game with a home run.
Ian Happ has hit third or fourth in the order pretty consistently. Ross said he's had numerous conversations with Happ about lineup construction.
"Those are manager decisions," Happ said Tuesday. "I enjoyed hitting in the three-hole, I enjoyed hitting in the middle of the lineup. I've had good at-bats with guys in scoring position, but walked a lot, haven't really driven in runs. Trying to make the best of those situations for the team. However Rossy shakes it up, we'll all be here ready to go."
Happ is fourth on the Cubs and tied for 57th in the National League with 21 RBI, which doesn't really fit with someone batting third or fourth. But he was also fourth in all of MLB with 38 walks heading into Tuesday's action.
"I think that's something I do really well, control the zone, don't chase and it's just been a product of the pitches I've seen this year," he said. "Keep getting on base, that's the important thing."
Around the horn:
Marcus Stroman was the first pitcher to toss a complete game 1-hitter or no-hitter against the team with the best record in MLB since Toronto's Roy Halladay did it against the Yankees on Sept. 4, 2009. ... Stroman is the fourth Cub to throw a 1-hitter since 2000, joining Jon Lieber and Kerry Wood in 2001, and Jake Arrieta in '14.