By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — With a worn-out bullpen to consider and two primary setup men still on the disabled list, Cubs manager Joe Maddon received a big-time performances from unexpected contributors Thursday night.
The Cubs held off the Giants for a 5-4 win at Wrigley Field in an unconventional manner, getting a combined five perfect innings from three less-heralded relievers in Rob Zastryzny, Joe Smith and Carl Edwards.
“Wow we got 15 outs in a row,” Maddon said. “Just a good game for us. Yes, most of the normal bullpen guys were out. You rely on Rob Z, who just got here, CJ, who we have been going back and forth with, Smitty, who just showed up at the deadline. Those three guys having these moments, they all are going to grow from it.”
Maddon was without closer Aroldis Chapman on Thursday after he had pitched three consecutive days. So as the Cubs looked to hold onto the one-run lead in the ninth inning that they grabbed on shortstop Addison Russell’s two-run single two innings earlier, they turned to the 24-year-old Edwards, who picked up his first career save. Edwards struck out one and induced two groundouts.
“I am not going to lie — I was nervous,” Edwards admitted. “I felt good pretty much the whole time. My main goal was to get first-pitch strikes. That is what I kept saying to myself, and it made things that much easier.”
For Edwards, style points were gained by watching Chapman prepare when he gets ready to enter a game.
“I watch everything he does before going out,” Edwards said. “Of course I am not going to throw 107 like he does. Once I got to professional baseball, it was all Mariano (Rivera) for me. I just kept watching video of him. I wasn’t trying to be like him but to watch his pitch location. I was concentrating on his natural movement. I decided if this is my role in the major leagues, that is something I need to get better at.”
The three Cubs relievers picked up starting left-handed Mike Montgomery, who didn’t have good command in allowing four runs, three earned, in four innings.
Catcher David Ross was impressed with the bullpen’s effort.
“All the credit goes to our guys in the bullpen,” Ross said. “That is a really good lineup over there. All three of the guys stood tall for us. They did what they had to do by concentrating on the mitt and not worrying about the moment. You looked up at the end, and they all helped us win a ball game.”
Before this season, the Cubs bullpen hadn’t thrown five or more no-hit innings since 2008. On May 30, Cubs relievers threw seven no-hit innings against the Dodgers.
Chicago (86-47) has now won 34 of its past 46 games.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.