CHICAGO – The Cubs were able to hit their way past another shaky pitching performance Thursday night.
They scored five runs in the fifth inning to rally from a 3-1 deficit and beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 9-6, at Wrigley Field in the first game back from the All-Star break.
But it’s a safe bet that team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have prioritized the acquisition of one, and perhaps two, pitchers before the July 31 nonwaiver trading deadline.
They started that process late Thursday, obtaining right-handed reliever Jesse Chavez from the Texas Rangers in exchange for left-handed minor league pitcher Tyler Thomas, a seventh-round draft pick from last year. Thomas was pitching for the Cubs’ Single-A South Bend affiliate.
Chavez, 34, is 3-1 with one save and a 3.51 ERA in 30 relief appearances this year. He has walked 12 and struck out 50 in 561/3 innings.
“Good arm,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon, whose team improved to 56-38. “Versatile. Can start and relieve. The word that comes to mind is versatility. You could either start him or put him in the bullpen. And he’s very good in both arenas.”
Kyle Hendricks started Thursday’s game, and it was another lackluster performance for the right-hander. He threw 113 pitches in only 42/3 innings, including 27 in the first inning and 25 in the second, as the Cardinals jumped to a 2-0 lead. Hendricks gave up nine hits and three runs, as his ERA rose from 3.92 to 3.99.
The start was the Cubs’ 58th nonquality start of the season compared with only 36 quality starts, and that bodes ill for the bullpen with the Cubs playing five games in four days in this weekend series.
“It was a little bit of a battle tonight,” Hendricks said. “But I actually felt pretty good. The action on my fastball was good most of the time. I really felt I only made one bad pitch, on the home run (to Tommy Pham in the second).”
The Cubs likely are not done dealing. Depending on the status of injured starter Yu Darvish, they could be in the market for another starting pitcher.
“I don’t think that’s going to be the end of it,” Maddon said. “They (Epstein and Hoyer) enjoy it too much.”
Fortunately for Hendricks, the Cubs put across a run in the bottom of the third inning before the Cardinals added one in the top of the fifth as they chased Hendricks in favor of Brian Duensing.
The Cubs sent eight men to the plate in the fifth against Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez, with Anthony Rizzo (batting in the leadoff spot again) hitting an RBI double and Ian Happ hitting his 12th homer of the season, a two-run shot to right field.
The offensive fireworks are nice and they can carry a club for a while, but good solid starting pitching is usually a surefire key to success.
“It happens once in a while, but it’s so hard to get to that last game of the year and win it without that level of pitching,” Maddon said. “I still have a lot of faith.”