Dodgers starter welcomes wind's help en route to 6 shutout innings
By John Jackson
Special to MLB.com |
CHICAGO -- After Brandon McCarthy tossed six shutout innings against the formidable Cubs lineup Wednesday night to win his second straight start, there was much talk in the visiting clubhouse at Wrigley Field that the Dodgers' rotation might be deeper and better than anyone envisioned.
McCarthy, who allowed just four hits in the 2-0 victory, has won both of his starts this season and lowered his ERA to 1.50. About the only challenge the 33-year-old right-hander avoided was discussing the possibilities beyond that night's performance.
"I want to pitch as well as I can every time out and get us wins," he said. "That's as simple as my focus is right now. Everything else is noise off to the side."
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was pleased to address the noise. If McCarthy -- who made just a total of 13 starts the previous two years because of Tommy John surgery -- can combine with Hyun-Jin Ryu to provide consistency in the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation, the team's prospects are better than expected.
"What Mac did, and I know Ryu is going to try to match that or better," Roberts said. "If you can get that and then you go back to [Clayton Kershaw] … That's how you want to get rolling. Last year, we never really had a chance to maintain traction with our pitching, but it's in there."
Although McCarthy walked three batters, Roberts said he loved the aggressive approach against the Cubs hitters.
"That's sort of how I am in general," McCarthy said. "I try to throw a lot of strikes and fill up the zone. Against a lineup like that, they'll take their walks all day. They're unbelievably disciplined. You have to be able to come into the zone to get results. We had to go with our best stuff and see how it matched up."
It also helps when there's a strong 14-mph wind blowing in at Wrigley. Chicago sluggers Willson Contreras and Anthony Rizzo stroked high balls that appeared headed out but were knocked down by the wind into easy outs.
"I thought the Contreras one was out for sure," McCarthy said of the blast in the fifth inning. "The Rizzo ball, I couldn't tell.
"The last time I pitched here, I think I gave up a wind home run the other way, so I'll take the ones coming in my favor."
Considering the conditions, it's strange how the deciding run was immediate, as Dodgers leadoff hitter Andrew Toles -- perhaps the smallest player in either lineup -- sent the third pitch from Cubs starter John Lackey into the right-field stands for a 1-0 lead.
"He threw it low and I hit it on a line, so the wind was no factor because it was so low," Toles said. "It was a line drive. The wind was definitely a factor [overall], though."
You didn't have to convince the Cubs of that.
"We could've had two homers tonight for sure," Chicago right fielder Jason Heyward said. "Toles hit more of a line drive. If you hit a line drive well enough, it's going to go."
That run was enough for McCarthy and a strong bullpen effort, although Chase Utley added an insurance run in the ninth inning when he scored from first base on an errant throw by Contreras after Toles was struck out on a ball in the dirt.
John Jackson is a contributor to MLB.com based in Chicago. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.