No Justin Verlander, no problem for the Cubs.
General manager Jed Hoyer said the Cubs didn’t get too far in talks for Verlander, who went from Detroit to Houston late Thursday in a trade.
The way the Cubs’ starting rotation is going, it might not matter. Veteran warhorse John Lackey turned in another solid start Friday as he pitched seven scoreless innings in a 2-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs (74-60) have won five in a row, and a lot of the success has to do with starting pitching, which sports a 25-7 record and 3.22 ERA since the All-Star break.
What’s more, the Cubs are six deep in starters now. Although Verlander would have been a nice addition, the Cubs are more than getting by.
“I think they were pretty focused on Houston all along,” Hoyer said of Detroit. “Because of that, because they had a deal they liked that they sat on for a bunch of weeks, I think that we never got that deep into it.”
Lackey went deep, tying his season high of seven innings as he improved to 11-10 with a 4.74 ERA. He retired the final 16 Braves he faced.
“It gives you a good chance to win,” Lackey said of the depth in the rotation. “Starting pitching is probably the best way to win consistently, and we’ve got that lately.”
Lackey got help via a tumbling catch from left fielder Kyle Schwarber on a Nick Markakis liner to start the second. That catch was big because the Braves got two hits later that inning. Lackey called it a “bull-in-a-china-cabinet catch.”
“It was a tumble and a somersault,” Schwarber said. “Didn’t stick the landing.”
Schwarber and Javier Baez teamed up for some excitement in the third as the Cubs scored the first run. Baez led off with a walk and was bunted to second by Lackey. After Ben Zobrist flied out, Schwarber topped a swinging bunt down the third-base line, where it was fielded by pitcher Mike Foltynewicz, who threw to first too late to get Schwarber. Baez came charging all the way home from second base to score.
“I didn’t know that he would go,” Schwarber said. “I just hit the bag, and I thought I was safe, and I hear everyone going crazy. I’m like, ‘What just happened?’ Then I looked back, and Javy scored. I can’t talk [enough] about how much baseball instinct that is right there.”
The Cubs got another run in the fourth. Anthony Rizzo doubled and came home on Ian Happ’s single. But in addition to the pitching, Baez was the show again.
“I love it, 100 percent,” he said. “It’s business, but before business, it’s a game. It will be a game forever. It will be business forever, but it will be a game before anything.”
Baez will see to that himself.