Edwards Jr. gets key outs, continues to impress

Edwards Jr. gets key outs, continues to impress

CHICAGO -- Some young pitchers would be intimidated having to face Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Andrelton Simmons in the eighth inning with two runners on and nobody out with a two-run lead. Not the Cubs' Carl Edwards Jr.

"I just pulled my hat down more, so I don't see their faces," Edwards said.

Edwards struck out Trout and got Pujols to ground out, which allowed a run to score, but Simmons then grounded out to shortstop Addison Russell to end the inning. Aroldis Chapman took over in the ninth to preserve a 3-1 Cubs victory over the Angels. Chicago now has won nine straight games.

"When [Edwards] came out to the mound, I said, 'Don't worry about the runners, just go after the hitter, just focus on the hitter,'" Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Giving up one run there is fine, but [you don't want] to give up two."

And the slender right-hander did just what Maddon asked.

"I went in and tried to keep it as simple as possible and not try to overdo it or force too much," Edwards said. "I just went right at them and let the defense work behind me."

It isn't the first time Maddon has called on Edwards to face the heart of the order, but there was some extra incentive. Edwards loved watching Pujols play. He really liked getting him out.

"I threw him a curveball 0-2, and he fouled it off, and he gave me a smirk," Edwards said. "I was like, 'Oh, that's cool.' I had to realize, 'Oh, I've got to get this guy out.' Watching him as a kid and having to face him in this situation, it felt pretty good."

Maddon has been careful with Edwards, who was converted from a starter to a reliever after some shoulder problems in the Minor Leagues. So far, he's thrived, but the Cubs want to be careful not to overuse him. However, Hector Rondon has a sore right triceps and Pedro Strop injured his left knee on Wednesday.

"It would change the entire complexion of the group," Maddon said of his bullpen if Strop is out for an extended period. "We'll have to look at different folks."

"[Edwards is] going to be a lights-out pitcher for us," Russell said. "He comes in and faces the heart of the lineup every single time, and he goes out there and gives his best.

"Seeing his personality and the way he goes about his business, he works hard. It's good to see him out there doing his thing."

Said Maddon: "We've been watching him grow all season."

Is Edwards ready for a bigger role?

"I feel I can do that," he said. "I feel I can step in and just do my job."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.