Cubs’ 18-4 loss to Yankees taxes bullpen as rotation questions loom

NEW YORK – Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” blared over the Yankee Stadium loudspeakers as Cubs reliever Daniel Norris walked off the field and Alec Mills jogged in from the bullpen.

Another one indeed. Mills was the Cubs’ third pitcher in as many innings.

The Cubs’ 18-4 loss on Sunday was the Cubs’ second blowout defeat at the hands of the Yankees in a row. How much does a June loss to the best team in MLB mean? A lot if it depletes the bullpen during a stretch of 17 games without an off day.

On Sunday, Cubs relievers combined to throw 7 1/3 innings. It was the second time this series that they were responsible for more than seven frames in a game.

The Cubs’ rotation is also short-handed, with right-hander Marcus Stroman (shoulder inflammation) and lefties Wade Miley (shoulder strain) and Drew Smyly (right oblique strain) all on the 15-day IL, making bullpen depth all the more important entering this week.

On Sunday, Cubs right-hander Keegan Thompson didn’t make it out of the first inning, walking three batters and giving up a pair of two-run doubles before lefty Daniel Norris came in to face the top of the order with two outs.

Thompson was charged with three earned runs. Two unearned runs scored after four Cubs players converged under a popup in front of the mound, and the ball glanced off of third baseman Patrick Wisdom’s glove, allowing Marwin Gonz?lez to reach on the error.

Thompson had been dominant to start the season, posting a 1.58 ERA in his first eight relief appearances and three starts. The Cubs have moved him out of that swingman role by necessity. In his last three starts, Thompson has allowed 13 earned runs in nine innings, each start shorter than the last.

Just two days prior to Thompson’s short start Sunday, the Cubs bullpen did the heavy lifting in a 13-inning loss. Miley came off the 15-day IL to start, but three innings in, his shoulder started bothering him again. That left over nine innings for the bullpen to fill, and the Cubs placed Miley back on the IL the next day.

Norris had thrown an inning in that game, and on Sunday the Cubs called on him to throw two more. He walked three and gave up two homers in two innings.

Cubs right-hander Alec Mills’ 3 1/3 innings of two-run ball saved the Cubs from reaching even deeper into the bullpen. But the outing brought Mills’ innings total for the series up to four innings. If he had been an option to start Wednesday, when the Cubs have an opening in the rotation, he likely isn’t after that weekend workload.

Cubs reliever Sean Newcomb (five runs in one inning) and first baseman Frank Schwindel (one run in one inning) took the mound for the Cubs’ last two defensive frames.

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