Craig Kimbrel likely to return Sunday as Cubs could be starting to pull out of bullpen skid
The Cubs' bullpen had a rough few days this week, but things are looking up
The Cubs' bullpen had a rough week. On Thursday, it blew what was a 5-0 lead entering the eighth inning, culminating with Bryce Harper's walkoff grand slam for a Phillies sweep. Friday, the Cubs took a 2-1 lead in the eighth inning, but then Brandon Kintzler allowed a walkoff single for the Cubs' fourth-straight loss.
Things might shift in the coming days, though. First off, Craig Kimbrel is likely to be activated on Sunday, the Cubs told reporters (via Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago) after Saturday's win. Secondly, notice I said they won Saturday. They did so with an outstanding bullpen performance.
With a 1-0 lead and two runners on in the seventh inning, Tyler Chatwood entered the game and put out the fire. He stayed in for an easy 1-2-3 in the eighth, too. He walked the leadoff man in the ninth, but then Rowan Wick came on and got three easy outs to end the game.
Since the beginning of July, Chatwood has been amazing, sporting a 1.76 ERA with 20 strikeouts against just four walks in 15 1/3 innings. At this point, I think we can say he's legitimately useful in big spots.
Wick had a hand in the Thursday meltdown, but overall he's been great, pitching to a 2.55 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings.
Kimbrel's numbers look ugly, but he was rusty. If we lop off his first three outings, he'd have a 2.70 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 10 innings.
Kintzler took one on the chin Friday, but it was his first outing off the injured list. He still has a 2.51 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 46 2/3 innings. He's fine.
Steve Cishek is on the injured list with a hip injury, but he threw a bullpen session without issue Saturday and he'll likely be back soon.
Kyle Ryan has gotten lots of big outs this season and is the top lefty.
David Phelps has been excellent since his acquisition and threw a scoreless eighth with a one-run lead Friday night.
Pedro Strop appears to be in his decline and shouldn't be counted on in big spots until he shows he's gotten his stuff back.
Once Kimbrel and Cishek are back, the Cubs should have a litany of at least somewhat reliable high-leverage guys. Good versions of Kimbrel, Chatwood, Cishek, Kintzler, Wick, Ryan and Phelps would go a long way in solving the Cubs', though it wouldn't hurt if the offense would put some runs on the board, either.
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