Six innings, no runs, 3 hits, no walks, 8 strikeouts, 16 whiffs.
A brilliant start by one of the best pitchers in baseball? Nope. That’s the combined effort of Travis Wood and Trevor Cahill last night, which will be lost by many because of the way the rest of the game played out. They both pitched so, so well. Absolutely fantastic.
Wood, who yielded the three hits, notched five of the strikeouts, and looked especially sharp. It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens with Wood after this season. He’s starter playing the part of reliever, and, in total, he’s done it very well: 3.23 ERA, 2.61 FIP, and 3.57 xFIP over 53.0 relief innings. But he’s going to be in his final year of arbitration after making $5.7 million this year, and, if he’s a middle-inning/long reliever these days, would the Cubs tender him a contract for 2016, knowing that it could cost upwards of $7 million? Will another team want Wood as a starter more than the Cubs, such that a trade can be worked out? Or will the Cubs want Wood back, even at that price (or trying to sign him for less before the tender deadline), knowing that he’s quality depth whether starting or relieving?
Tough questions that will emerge after the season. For now, Wood’s a great part of the Cubs’ bullpen.
As for the other part of last night’s starting duo, Cahill looked good, allowing bupkis in his three innings of work (the first of which started with a runner on first base) and striking out three.
The reliever version of Trevor Cahill sure is interesting. He was hitting the mid-90s with his sinker (was closer to 90mph when he was a starter), which still had great movement. He paired it with a changeup that was 10mph slower and had even more downward movement, and it was a pretty nasty combo. You’d need to see a whole lot more to have confidence that reliever Cahill is a thing, but, like I said, it’s interesting.
Cahill is 27 and a free agent after this season. We’ll see what happens with his career – he might want to seek out starting opportunities after this season – but it’s not like it’s uncommon for guys to bottom out as starters as they hit their late-20s, and then emerge as great relievers. It’s just more uncommon that it all happens at the big league level.