I’m just going to come out and say it. The Cubs need to find a better option to pitch the ninth inning in close games. Michael Fulmer cannot be counted on in high leverage situations right now. Twice in the past week he has provided enough evidence for David Ross to take him out of his current role.
The Cubs entered the ninth inning of Saturday night’s game against the Dodgers with a 1-0 lead. The next thing you know he coughed up 2 runs on 3 hits and the Cubs lost. Then again on Thursday, he came in for the ninth inning of a tied ball game looking to hold the Dodgers so the Cubs could have some walkoff magic of their own. Two hits, a walk, and a very heartbreaking grand slam off the bat of James Outman a close fought game was suddnely out of reach.
Cubs veteran Michael Fulmer said he was having issues spinning the ball like normal against the Dodgers: “I don’t know what’s going on, but I better figure it out pretty damn quick.”
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) April 21, 2023
The start of Fulmer’s 2023 campaign isn’t going so hot. He currently sits at an 0-2 record with a 7.56 ERA. He has given up 7 runs on 12 hits and 3 walks in 8.1 innings pitched. Not to be entirely negative, he does have 11 strikeouts. Whatever is going on, he either needs to work on it in middle relief or mop-up duty or hit the IL with something that buys him sometime to figure it out while not costing the team games.
It’s only April you say? Yes, it is early. This team was only projected to win around 80 games, however. They don’t have the luxury of losing a lot of winnable games. If they want to be true postseason contenders come September, they are going to have to fight for every win that they can get. The Cubs batters weren’t able to push around many runs in both games. They share some of the blame. That doesn’t erase the fact that the you need to win a ball game when you enter the 9th inning with a lead on the road. It also doesn’t give you an excuse when you walk Jason Heyward of all people in a double play situation.
No matter which route the Cubs go in removing Fulmer from his current role, Jeremiah Estrada is waiting in the wings in Iowa. The 24 year-old righty is carrying clean ERA in 6 innings pitched while striking out 7 batters. Estrada needs to be called up to see what he can do against Major League batters this season. Mark Leiter Jr. has been terrific so far, striking out 14 batters in 7.1 innings while not allowing any runs. The Cubs could give either of them a trial at being the teams closer.
Michael Fulmer cannot be relied on to get opposing batters out when the game is on the line. Every win is important to this Cubs team. This change needs to be made now and not in June when he has cost the team 5 more games.
Featured Image: Brian Rothmuller/Associated Press