Cubs’ Keegan Thompson's career-long start latest sign of growth

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Cubs’ Thompson's career-long start latest sign of growth originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

After allowing a leadoff single Tuesday, Cubs starter Keegan Thompson needed just four more pitches to retire the Reds in the first inning.

It proved to be a sign of things to come for Thompson, who wrapped up his impressive finish to June with another strong outing.

Thompson threw 6 1/3 efficient innings — a new career-high — while striking out eight with no walks.

He was charged with four runs, two of which scored after he exited.

“Keegan threw the ball really well. He was attacking,” manager David Ross said after the Cubs' 5-3 loss. “It's been vintage him as of late, throwing the ball really well.”

Thompson held Cincinnati scoreless through 5 1/3 innings before they tagged him for two runs in the sixth.

He exited the game after allowing a pair of one-out singles in the seventh, and both runners scored on Jonathan India’s two-out, three-run homer off Rowan Wick.

“It felt good out there,” Thompson said of his outing. “I felt good tonight. Late, I got maybe a little tired there.

“But I gotta find a way to dig down and make those pitches there at the end and get through that [seventh] inning.”

Thompson's development in the rotation is an important storyline for the Cubs this season. Finishing those innings deeper into outings is part of his continued growth as a big-league starting pitcher.

“Just continue to be able to be efficient and finish that, go even deeper,” Ross said.

Not that he hasn’t shown growth already.

“I mean, tonight was a career-high [start] for him,” Ross said. “So, I don't want to be negative in that.

“There’s always growth, and I've seen him continue to grow every time he takes the mound.”

Thompson’s success as a reliever this season translated to his first handful of starts after the Cubs moved him to the rotation in late May. But he encountered a rough patch earlier this month.

In consecutive starts to the Orioles and Yankees, Thompson allowed 12 runs (10 earned) while pitching a total of 3 2/3 innings

He’s bounced back over his last three outings to finish June on a high note. Including Tuesday, Thompson has gone six-plus innings and struck out at least seven batters in his last three starts.

Beyond the numbers, Thompson’s poise on the mound is evident in the way he’s attacking. He worked with quick tempo Tuesday and pounded the strike zone, throwing 69 percent of his pitches for strikes.

“I think tempo is confidence,” manager David Ross said. “When you're coming right at guys, the rhythm at which he's established that fastball, right? Like, ‘Here I come.’

“Keegan’s coming right at you. That fast pace really puts you on your heels as an opposing offense. He’s done a nice job of that."

Thompson refocused on throwing his four-seam fastball in his start against the Braves two weeks ago, after going away from it against the Orioles and Yankees.

He threw it 42 percent of the time Tuesday and credited his recent stretch to getting back to that pitch.

“I think just working off the fastball and trusting that it plays in the strike zone,” Thompson said.

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