PITTSBURGH — A pitch three starts ago is still on Matt Swarmer’s mind.

The sequence occurred in his June 11 outing at Yankee Stadium, where he notably became the first Chicago Cubs starter since 1901 to allow six home runs in a game. That night, Swarmer threw a 90 mph fastball so far into catcher José Treviño that the pitch almost went into the batter’s box. But Treviño lit the ball and hit it off the left-field foul pole for a solo home run.

Given the location, Swarmer thought the ball would have at least gone wrong off Treviño’s bat if he hadn’t taken the pitch. Instead, he gave the Yankees their fourth home run of the game in an 8-0 victory, part of a series sweep.

The Cubs believe Swarmer was throwing pitches against the Yankees. In his two starts since then, Swarmer believes he has addressed the issue and that the tipping issue hasn’t been as pronounced.

“I don’t want to give hitters any advantage and make them feel like everything looks the same and you never know what’s coming,” Swarmer told the Tribune on Wednesday. “The moment you’re not worried about where your hands are or the mechanics, you’re just worried about executing pitches. But yes, it can speed you up quickly. I just have to be more aware early.”

Swarmer credited pitching coach Tommy Hottovy for drawing his attention during games when he notices potentially tipping, signaling an indicator that the right-hander’s mechanics are off.

“I mean, that was a pretty good lineup: tip/not tip, that’s a potent (Yankees) offense,” Hottovy told the Tribune. “As long as he stays true to himself and continues to trust what he does very well and then find ways to spread the fastball and the changeup and move the ball … he has a unique slider that a lot of people don’t see. .”

Swarmer finished Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 39-pitch third inning in which he allowed three runs. He prevented him from pitching deep into the game, limited to four innings. He forced manager David Ross to use right-hander Mark Leiter Jr., called up hours earlier to give the bullpen a fresh long reliever. Swarmer allowed five runs (four earned) out of the gate while he walked two and struck out five.

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After two brief starts in the series from Swarmer and Caleb Kilian, who was optioned to Triple-A on Tuesday, right-hander Keegan Thompson stepped up.

Thompson delivered a quality start for the second straight outing, limiting the Pirates to one run in six innings in the Cubs’ 14-5 victory on Wednesday. The offense provided plenty of run support early on, scoring seven runs in the second inning as they sent 10 batters to the plate and went 3-for-5 with runners in scoring position. The Cubs took advantage of loading the bases with no outs in the inning, charging against Pirates starter Jerad Eickhoff.

Five Cubs drove in a run in the victory, led by Ian Happ and Patrick Wisdom, each with two-run homers. For Wisdom, he accounted for consecutive days with a home run. Alfonso Rivas connected for his first career grand slam, hitting it against Pirates infielder Diego Castillo in the ninth.

Since the Cubs likely won’t get any of their three injured starting pitchers back until around the All-Star break, Swarmer has a chance to get an extended major league appearance. He wants to be more aggressive early in games and not worry about strikeouts. Ultimately, Swarmer wants to be a starter the Cubs can count on to throw deep in games.

“Sometimes I try to do too much and it takes me off my game even more,” Swarmer said. “Like, I’ll try too hard. I’ll get 0-2 or 1-2, and I’m trying to push the guy away or make weak contact. And the exits are the exits. But I have to keep improving, honestly, and keep learning.”

Swarmer continues to rely on his mix of fastball and slider. He knows that working on his changeup as a bona fide third pitch will be important to keep hitters from sitting on his slider. It’s Swarmer’s best release, and Hottovy wants to see heavy use.

“We still want the guys to trust their stuff and we also try to find ways to continue to develop the guys,” Hottovy said. “And he’s one of those guys that falls into that role that we know he has a pitch that he plays really well. How can we supplement that with other things and still give it a chance to be successful?


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