The Cubs have tied their largest division lead of the season (three games) after another successful homestand.
The last time the Cubs built their lead up to three games? They turned it into a one-game deficit after a 3-6 road trip. With a ten-game, three-city road trip on the horizon, the Cubs can't let that happen again.
The offense is clicking, the rotation is humming, but their closer and top setup man are on the injured list. Craig Kimbrel could return next week, but Brandon Kintzler is likely to miss the entire trip.
In order to avoid another treacherous road trip, the Cubs are going to need contributions from some new names. Hopefully those names are Rowan Wick and Duane Underwood.
Wick is in the midst of his third stint with the major league club, and he's been by far the most impressive and productive pitcher from the Iowa shuttle. In 13 games, he's struck out 15 batters in 13.2 innings with a 1.98 ERA and 2.78 FIP. Since being recalled from Iowa on July 23rd, he's yet to allow a run in eight games. His teammates are noticing.
With a fastball that sits at 96-97 MPH and a nasty curveball to complement his heater, Wick probably has the second-best raw stuff in the bullpen behind Kimbrel. His emergence has been huge, and he needs to continue dominating down the stretch.
While Wick has shown he belongs, his Iowa teammate Duane Underwood is getting a shot to make his mark as well. He did not disappoint in his season debut the other night:
Underwood was once a prime starting pitching prospect for the Cubs, but injuries and command issues derailed him. Since moving to the bullpen full-time in June, his K/BB ratio down in Iowa is 4.5/1 with an ERA well under 3.00. He's going to get opportunities this week and again in September. If he makes the most of them, this Cubs bullpen could be much more dangerous.
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