CHICAGO — The big story of the day on Friday was Marcus Stroman returning to the Chicago Cubs rotation. The bigger story on Saturday, however, was how the Cubs used other lesser-known weapons to save Stroman and themselves from a loss.
Stroman gave up three runs in the second inning in his first start since July 31, then watched as the Cubs rallied for a 6-3 win over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday using contributions from Miles Mastrobuoni and Christopher Morel to keep right in the heart of the National League Wild Card chase.
Saturday's win was the 81st of the season for the Cubs and ensured they would return to Wrigley on Sunday to finish their regular-season home schedule in control of their postseason fate for another day.
Chicago Cubs rally for win to keep NL Wild Card hopes strong
Stroman pitched just 3.0 innings, throwing 64 pitches and leaving with the Rockies ahead 3-1. From there, however, the Cubs used an ensemble to turn the tide against the NL's worst team (Colorado is now 56-98 on the season and knocking on the franchise's first-ever 100-loss season).
Javier Assad followed Stroman on the mound with 4.0 scoreless innings, scattering two hits and striking out a career-high six in relief. He was the first of three Cubs relievers who held the Rockies scoreless over the final six innings as the Cubs chipped away to take the lead.
"Assad has been huge for us. He's been incredible to come in and be so dialed in on each and every pitch," Stroman said. "We just feel like when he's on the mound right now, he gives us a great chance to win."
Mastrobuoni keyed Chicago's offensive attack, going 2-for-3 with a walk and scoring a pair of runs. Over his last four games, he is 8-for-15 and now has three multi-hit games in September. It's a big turnaround from earlier in the season when he bounced between Triple-A Iowa and Chicago and didn't really find a way to crack the lineup.
"I'm so proud of Miles and the adversity he went through early on," Cubs manager David Ross said. "He's a good baseball player. He's a hard-nosed, gritty guy who you love to have on your team. He's been really patient, worked his tail off and he deserves everything that's coming to him."
Morel added a solo home run in the eighth inning (his 25th homer of the season) as part of a two-run frame that gave the Cubs additional breathing room.
On Saturday, it wasn't Dansby Swanson, Ian Happ or Cody Bellinger who rallied the Cubs, and perhaps that's a very good sign for the North Siders that they're getting contributions from role players as the final critical week of the regular season dawns.