Last night was a lot of fun to sit back and watch three of the Cubs’ top pitching prospects take the mound. They all, in their own unique way, showed why they are such highly thought of prospects. At times, it seemed as though they were trying to outdo each other. While Dylan Cease pitched late, Oscar de la Cruz and Trevor Clifton looked they were going toe to toe for five innings. It was intense to flip back and forth and watch them try to one up the other. For the night, the trio went 15.2 IP with 23 Ks and only 1 run allowed.
For South Bend’s Oscar de la Cruz, he was making his fifth start. His last start saw him give up six runs in his shortest outing of the year. de la Cruz looked very good from the get go. After striking out the first batter, he gave up a single and then coaxed a double play to get out of the inning. This would be his theme for the night. There would always be a runner on, but he worked quickly, didn’t give the hitter time to think, and he pitched to contact despite striking out six. His most impressive moment of the night came in the fourth. After giving up two singles and walk, de la Cruz had the bases loaded with two outs. Pitching coach David Rosario came out for a brief visit. Whatever Rosario said worked as de la Cruz went quickly to work striking out the final batter of the inning. His ERA is back under 3 now. To show you his dominance, he has struck out 32 in just 22.2 IP at South Bend.
As for Trevor Clifton, the young 21-year-old looked like a beast for Myrtle Beach. A few weeks ago, he took a no-hitter into the 8th inning against Carolina, his opponent for the night. It almost looked like a replay for the first three frames. Trevor, after having watched him closely the past two years, was the most efficient I have ever seen him. It was like watching a master class in pitching. He was pumping his 93/94 mph fastball where he wanted it to go. He mixed in his curve and his changeup was a thing of beauty later in the game. He finally gave up a hit in the fourth and never really ran into trouble until the 7th. For the night, Clifton went 6.2 IP, gave up 2 hits, 1 BB, and struck out 10 Mudcats! It was a dominating start. For the month of August, Clifton now has a 1.04 ERA, reminiscent of May when he won the Cubs MILB Pitcher of the Month award.
After two innings, I sent a message to someone about Dylan Cease’s night at that point. It said,
Cease looking very fluid again tonight. Mainly FB/Curve in the first two innings. Sitting 98 Topping 100. Much more efficient tonight. 30 pitches through 2
It was actually 34 pitches. Still, the young man did look smooth. I know this is hyperbole, but he looked like he could slide into the bullpen and pitch an inning tomorrow if needed. He looked that good. I should have kept my mouth shut. Over the next two innings, Cease struggled with his release point at times, an issue he has from time to time. The result of those malfunctions were some deep counts. He would only give up one run, but it took him 44 pitches to get through those two innings, At this point, he topped out at 100.9. However, for the most part, Cease looked great for the first two innings, and in the third and fourth, he looked like Dylan Cease. For the night, he managed 4 IP with 1 hit and 2 BBs (which always do him in) and he struck out 7. It was impressive to watch.
The one common theme I noticed all night was these three young phenoms did not waste any time between pitches. They got the ball, got the sign, shook their head, and attacked the hitters. For the past three starts, the trios’ outings have been lining up the same nights. It’s hard to know who to watch at times. On the other hand, whomever I do get to see never disappoints. With just two and a half weeks left in the season, they only have 2 starts left. Those will be fun to watch as well.