Cubs Believe Bullpen Will Be Strength Down Stretch

The Cubs have the fourth-best bullpen ERA in the NL and are finally healthy.

Bruce Levine
August 23, 2019 - 1:44 pm

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- Since the Cubs began their window of contention in 2015, the bullpen has been a linchpin of their success.

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The Cubs' bullpen ERA has ranked in the top four of the National League in each of the past four seasons. While the bullpen has encountered a fair deal of injury adversity in 2019, it's again getting the job done for the most part, with a 4.16 ERA that ranks fourth in the NL.

"Our guys upstairs have done a wonderful job of piecing together our bullpen," manager Joe Maddon said. "Just like they did in recent years, they have gone out each year and helped us get arms we needed."

The Cubs are counting heavily on their bullpen to step up down the stretch as they're locked in a tight NL Central race, and they believe it will be a strength now that its healthy. Closer Craig Kimbrel (knee), setup man Steve Cishek (hip) and high-leverage reliever Brandon Kintzler (pectoral) each have returned from injuries in the past week. They've been added to a group that includes breakout performers in Kyle Ryan (3.21 ERA in team-high 57 appearances) and Rowan Wick (2.33 ERA).

The bullpen was solid in the Cubs' recent sweep of the Giants, and Kimbrel's performance was noteworthy. He notched saves Tuesday and Wednesday and looked as sharp as he has all season in doing so. Ryan and Wick then combined to throw two scoreless innings to finish a 1-0 win Thursday as Kimbrel was unavailable after working back-to-back days.

"The depth has been created in a greater way for us the last few months," Maddon said. "It has fluctuated so much since what we thought we had in spring training and what it has morphed into now. Like the other night, you would not have anticipated co-starring roles in the ninth inning for Kyle Ryan and Rowan Wick. Kimbrel certainly looked like Kimbrel this week."

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The Cubs have had one of the best bullpens in baseball since late July. Their relievers have held foes to a .299 on-base percentage since July 28, the best mark in the NL.

"We are in a position to have the bullpen be an asset for us," president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. "The silver lining of many of them going on the IL was they got a little bit of rest. We are also realistic about what has happened to bullpens this year. It has been a rough year for them in baseball. With an ERA of around 4.00, we are fourth-best in the league. We have had some nice stories down there. It's up to us, and we can have a pennant-winning caliber bullpen the rest of the way."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.