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“Cy” Steele makes his pitch as NL’s best while Cubs edge Brewers

In just his third season, Justin Steele has become the Cubs’ ace. Now he’s making a strong case for National League Cy Young Award winner.

Throwing a career-high 111 pitches, Steele (15-3) tossed 6 shutout innings against Milwaukee on Tuesday at Wrigley Field, lowering his season ERA to 2.69. Three Cubs relievers completed the 1-0 shutout.

The victory ended the Brewers’ nine-game win streak, and they’d scored at least 5 runs in every contest.

“I feel great,” Steele said after the 111 pitches. “I feel like I’m in a good spot, wasn’t even paying attention to the pitch count really. I feel I can throw a lot of pitches any given night. It felt good. I was happy with it.”

Steele’s main competition for NL Cy Young appears to be San Diego’s Blake Snell, who is 11-9 with 2.60 ERA. He won the American League Cy Young in 2018 while pitching for Tampa Bay.

Atlanta’s Spencer Strider is another contender as the MLB leader in strikeouts. He’s at 15-4 with a 3.46 ERA. All-Star Game starter Zac Gallen (14-6, 3.32 ERA) dropped back a bit after a rough outing against the Dodgers on Monday. His Arizona teammate Merrill Kelly arguably has better numbers at 10-5 with a 2.97 ERA.

Milwaukee starter Corbin Burnes also had a nice night, completing 7 innings on 108 pitches with 1 run allowed. The Cubs have now won five games in a row started by Burnes, going back a couple seasons.


        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

 

Steele was struck in the left leg by a line drive hit by Victor Caratini in the second inning. The ball, with a listed exit velocity of 100.2 miles per hour, hit slightly above the knee, but Steele was able to turn sideways to soften the blow. He ran over to field the ball, limped a bit as he walked back to the mound and tossed two warmup pitches before resuming.

“I was just trying to get to the point where I could put weight on it,” Steele said. “I wasn’t really worried about it.”

Steele dealt with some traffic early. The Brewers put runners on second and third with one out in the first inning, on a walk, infield hit and wild pitch. Steele ended the inning with a line out to second base and strike out.

The Brewers put two runners on in the next two innings, as well. But Steele coaxed a double play in the second, then struck out two in a row to end the third. Steele retired 11 of the last 12 batters he faced.

        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

 

“I thought they did a nice job of taking their singles,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “You try to slug him, it’s difficult to do. They made him work with traffic. He had to work pretty hard. But I thought he got more efficient and it seemed like the game got easier for him.”

Fortunately for the Cubs, their bullpen was well-rested. Mark Leiter Jr. tossed a perfect seventh inning. Christian Yelich reached on a bunt single in the eighth, but was cut down attempting to steal by Yan Gomes and Julian Merryweather cruised through the inning.

Willy Adames hit a fly ball to left-center field that might have been trouble if the wind wasn’t blowing straight in, but it turned into a routine catch for Mike Tauchman, and Adbert Alzolay converted his 18th straight save with no further drama.

Actually the drama was all game long. Any mistake can turn a 1-0 game. Ian Happ made a leaping catch at the wall in the fifth.

“You always want more runs, but that’s a great environment, against a first-place team that felt like a playoff game,” Ross said. “That’s good for us, right? To watch our guys come in and perform, one-run game, we can’t let anything get by us.”

The game’s lone run was scored in the first inning. With one out, Nico Hoerner was hit by a pitch and Happ followed with a double. Hoerner scored on Cody Bellinger’s ground out and that was all.

The Cubs put runners on first and third with one out in the fifth after Christopher Morel and Gomes executed a perfect hit-and-run, but the inning ended when Hoerner hit into a double play.

As far as Cy Young, Steele shrugged off that question with his typical small-town Mississippi style.

“I feel like it’s (talked about) on TV and stuff,” he said. “But for me, every time I take the ball, I just try to give the team a good chance to win. I feel as long as I’m doing that, at the end of the year we’re going to be in a good spot.”

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        



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