Justin Steele leads the Chicago Cubs to a 5-0 win with the best start of his career – and puts his name firmly in the Cy Young debate – Twin Cities

Picking the best moment for Justin Steele’s start on Monday against the San Francisco Giants is a challenge.

Perhaps Patrick Bailey, the Giants’ 93.1-mph four-seam fastball catcher, finished the seventh inning and surpassed Steele’s previous strikeout record. There may have been 16 consecutive batters eliminated or a runner never managed to get into points position.

Eight shutout innings and 12 strikeouts, both career highs, show Steele’s absolute dominance in the Chicago Cubs’ 5-0 win.

With the win, the Cubs (74-64) matched their 2022 winning tally and stayed three games ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Cincinnati Reds for the second National League wildcard spot.

In the past 20 years, only two Cubs pitchers have pitched at least eight goalless innings with 12 or more strikeouts: Jake Arrieta (2014 and his no-hitter in 2015) and Ryan Dempster (2008). Ken Holtzman (1972) was the only Cubs leftist to do so. It’s a rare combination, having only happened 20 times in franchise history with 15 pitchers.

“It’s one of those games where you want to pitch all day,” Steele said. “You just want to keep going out there. It’s always fun knowing you have your stuff, knowing where the seam and slider go, you can go in, out, up and down. … I just want to keep building on that. On the days you have your stuff, you want to capitalize on it.

“For me, I don’t know about other ball players, you dream of big moments – it’s fun to complete those moments.”

A full count, two-out walk in the first and a two-out single in the second were the Giants’ only baserunners until Steele joined JD Davis early in the eighth. Steele wiped him out on the next pitch, forcing Casey Schmitt to a double play.

The 39,452 fans at Wrigley Field cheered as Steele knocked out Mike Yastrzemski in the final after the inning and his start.

“It’s fun watching guys throw and give you a chance to win every night,” said manager David Ross, “especially when you’re going head-to-head with some of the better players in the game.” done to us was this horse and as consistent as any we have had in a while.”

Giants starter Logan Webb typically has a 40-40 split between his changeup and his sinker. But he challenged the Cubs with a switch-heavy mix that accounted for 64% of his throws, and the Cubs didn’t have much success against that despite having the fifth-best average against right-handed switches.

Seiya Suzuki hit a solo home run from a Webb four-seam fastball for the lead in the second run, and Suzuki defeated him again in the seventh for an RBI double when Webb left a mid-plate switch.

Yan Gomes’ RBI single extended the lead to 3-0 in the seventh, and the offense put up two more runs in the eighth against Tristan Beck. Dansby Swanson scored for an RBI double and Suzuki notched his third RBI from a fielder’s pick.

Steele set the tone with his four-seam fastball, placing the baseball anywhere in the zone Gomes wanted it. With the fastball he produced 13 whiffs and 12 call strikes.

Steele’s development as a personal ace inevitably draws comparisons to left-hander Jon Lester. When asked if looking at Steele gives him flashbacks to his former teammates, Ross wanted to avoid blaming Steele but shared an observation of the two lefties.

“Jon wanted the ball in the biggest moments, Steele wants the ball in the biggest moments,” Ross said. “Steele feels like he carries us on his back and carries us to where we need to go and goes out there and does what he does best and competes really well.

“Jon was really good at it too – doesn’t even give Jon credit for that – but Steely’s definitely a big pitcher.”

Steele’s performance has earned him a permanent place in the NL Cy Young Award debate. As of Monday, he is among the top 10 NL starters with his 16 wins (tie on first place), 2.55 ERA (second), 4.3 fWAR (third), 2.98 FIP (third), 1.14 WHIP (same place in sixth) and 4.64 K/ BB (sixth).

Steele is part of a large group of Cy Young contenders that includes Atlanta Braves’ Spencer Strider, Diamondbacks’ Zac Gallen, San Diego Padres’ Blake Snell, New York Mets’ Kodai Senga, and Philadelphia Phillies’ Zack Wheeler belong.

“He’s shaping up to be the elite pitcher that we expected,” Gomes said. “Moments like this are something very special in a race like this.”


https://www.twincities.com/2023/09/04/justin-steele-carries-the-chicago-cubs-to-a-5-0-win-with-a-career-best-start-and-puts-his-name-firmly-in-the-cy-young-conversation/ Justin Steele leads the Chicago Cubs to a 5-0 win with the best start of his career – and puts his name firmly in the Cy Young debate – Twin Cities


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