Promoting left-hander Jordan Wicks to the majors worked out well for the Chicago Cubs. Wicks' major-league debut turned out to be an impressive one against the Pittsburgh Pirates as in five innings of work he allowed one run on two hits and struck out nine against only one walk. Of his 80 pitches, 47 went for strikes, and he recorded four ground-ball outs and no outs in the air. He also earned nine swings and misses on his best pitch, the changeup, to pick up the win in a 10-6 Cubs victory.
Wicks, 24 on Sept. 1, was Chicago's first-round pick in 2021 by way of Kansas State. He was regarded at the time as the typical "safe" college lefty whose relatively high floor and quick arrival to the majors could make up for a lack of ceiling. He's split this season between the Double- and Triple-A levels, compiling a 3.55 ERA and a 3.09 strikeout-to-walk ratio over the course of 20 starts.
Wicks relies heavily on a low-90s rising fastball and that signature changeup. The latter has generated a 41-percent whiff rate in Triple-A. He also throws a sinker, slider and curveball that has been an effective bat-misser in a small sample.
The Cubs' Saturday win over the Pirates pushes their record to 68-61 record and has them four games back of the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central. Those two sides will meet for their penultimate series beginning on Monday. They then won't play again until the final three games of the year, in what could serve as a de facto playoff series of its own. The Cubs and Diamondbacks are presently tied for the second wild-card spot in the NL.
Chicago's rotation has been problematic as of late. As a unit, they have the sixth-worst ERA (5.19 ERA) in the second half. Only one Cubs starter, converted reliever Javier Assad, has an ERA under 4.00 in August. Meanwhile, three Cubs starters -- Kyle Hendricks, Jameson Taillon, and Drew Smyly -- have ERA over 5.00 in a combined 13 starts.
The Cubs remain without veteran Marcus Stroman, who was placed on the injured list on July 31 because of hip inflammation. The team also announced that right-hander Michael Fulmer has been placed on the injured list with a strained right forearm as the corresponding move for bringing up Wicks.