WASHINGTON (AP) — Marcus Stroman wants baseball in tough spots with an eye to pitching deep in games.
Monday night at Nationals Park didn’t turn out the way he imagined.
Chicago Cubs manager David Ross admitted after the 5-4 loss that he probably took Stroman out one batter too soon. Ross brought in reliever Mark Leiter Jr. with two outs in the fifth to face Washington Nationals slugger Nelson Cruz. Two pitches later, Cruz hit Leiter’s fly sinker for a two-run double to put the Nationals ahead.
The Cubs tied it in the seventh on Seiya Suzuki’s RBI single, but lost after Cruz homered off reliever Brandon Hughes in the eighth.
In his last seven starts since early July, Stroman has a 2.21 ERA.
“I felt strong, so in that situation my biggest job is just to pass the ball and go to the bench,” Stroman said. “In those situations, I was criticized in the past for wanting to stay; I was criticized in the past for any situation. So I just try to keep my mouth shut and do as much as I can while I’m out there, and then when he comes looking for me, my job is done.”
It’s not often that a manager admits to prematurely cutting a starting pitcher. The most common refrain focuses on letting a headline stay on too long and burn out. Stroman’s record suggests he deserves a chance to get over a problem, especially when he was throwing well on a night when the Cubs’ defense let him down.
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Third baseman Zach McKinstry’s throwing error leading off the fifth led to the Nationals’ four-run inning, all of which were unearned runs attributed to Stroman.
“He was throwing the ball really well,” Ross said. “We didn’t play good defense there in the last inning.”
Ross reached out to Stroman after the game to let him know outright that he wished he had left the right-hander in the game. Stroman appreciated those words from his manager.
“It’s huge, obviously I want to be in the moment,” Stroman said. “But the fact that he identified himself and let me know right after the game, that just shows who Ross is. I love Ross. Rossy is the man. I have a lot of respect for that man.”
Even though he is in his third season, Ross is still learning on the job as a manager for the first time and growing in the role. This is the time to learn and adapt to game decisions, like the one on Monday, when wins and losses don’t affect postseason hopes.
In future seasons, perhaps as early as next year, a move that backfires in a significant game would put Ross under more scrutiny.
“He has a great sense of the game of baseball,” Stroman said. “Sometimes it’s going to be taken out of his hands as to where the game is going and he’s not going to face lineups three times and all of that, but you have to take vision and feel tests, and I think Ross has a lot of meaning.”