Adbert Alzolay tosses six strong innings, but homers bite him in Cubs loss to the IndiansRussell Dorseyon May 12, 2021 at 2:41 am

Chicago Cubs v Cleveland Indians
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Alzolay allowed three runs over six innings, striking out six. It was his first start of the season without a walk.

CLEVELAND – It looks like right-hander Adbert Alzolay is getting comfortable pitching in the big leagues and the results are starting to back that up.

There were going to be some ups and downs for Alzolay in his first full season in the Majors, but so far, he’s been able to improve on each of his outings this season

Alzolay has had to come with his best as he’s been matched up with some of baseball’s best arms recently and after facing Walker Buehler in his previous start, he took the mound against reigning AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber.

Getting those opportunities to face some of the game’s best isn’t something the Cubs’ young right-hander takes for granted.

“It’s been really fun. I’m looking forward to more matchups like this one,” Alzolay said after Tuesday’s 3-2 loss. “I think that’s the good part right now is that I’ve been matching really good pitchers lately, and I do like that.

The Cubs’ young right-hander went pitch for pitch with Bieber and looked better than his counterpart for most of the night.

Like his last start against the Dodgers, Alzolay got off to a fast start with the strikeout, striking out four of the first five hitters he faced. He induced 18 swings-and-misses in the game, including 15 coming off his slider.

“He’s getting more and more comfortable out there,” said Eric Sogard, who homered in the game. He has a great sense of all his pitches. When he’s getting ahead and using his defense behind him, it’s fun to watch.”

Alzolay was in cruise control and had Cleveland hitters off-balance, but it was the long ball that came back to hurt Alzolay, who surrendered a pair of homers in the fourth and fifth inning.

Jose Ramirez’s fourth-inning solo shot tied the game at 1 before Cesar Hernandez’s go-ahead, two-run blast in the fifth gave Cleveland a 3-2 lead. Both homers came on 3-2 counts.

“I thought Adbert threw the ball pretty well,” manager David Ross said. “I thought he made some big pitches, and didn’t give up a whole lot of hits. They had a little bit of damage there with Ramirez, trying to sneak a 3-2 fastball by him. Then to Hernandez, [he threw] a nice slider on 3-1, just didn’t get it there on 3-2. But yeah, I thought he threw the ball extremely well.”

Alzolay pitched well enough to win despite the homers and picked up his second quality start of the season. He allowed three runs on five hits over six innings, striking out six. It was also the fifth consecutive start he’s allowed three runs or less in a start and his first where he didn’t issue a walk.

“I definitely feel my body is getting more in rhythm to get deep into the game,” he said. “Today was a good day in the beginning, just missing two pitches in 3-2 counts [for home runs]. That happens when you’re in the big leagues and you miss your location against good hitters.”

The growth from the Cubs’ young starter from start to start has been impressive to start the season and he has slowly become one of the rotation’s most reliable options. If he can continue that upward trajectory, it’s clear he can get to another level this season.

“He’s been making the adjustments he needs to make each start,” catcher Willson Contreras said. “Today, he showed me that he will be capable of going more than six innings. I talk to him a lot about not rushing with two strikes. Whenever he gets to two strikes, he gets so excited.

“He probably misses the location the most on two strikes. I think that the next step for him is maintaining the same rhythm that he has before two strikes and then try to execute on two strikes.”

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