Steele's brief stumble proves costly for Cubs; Brewers sweep DH

Justin Steele's first major league start resembled the Cubs season.

Really nice at the beginning, followed by a sudden losing streak and by then it was too late. Steele was the losing pitcher in a 4-2 loss to Milwaukee at Wrigley Field in Game 1 of a doubleheader Tuesday afternoon. The Brewers also took the nightcap 6-3 to sweep the doubleheader. They're now 11-3 against the Cubs this season.

The Cubs have lost six straight games, but are obviously more concerned about the future than the present.

"I'd say I was calm and composed," Steele said after the game. "I felt really good out there. It felt good to be back at Wrigley and pitching again. It felt really good to see the fans, see the family. It was a very good experience, something to build off of."

This game offered some hope for the future, which was helpful since most of the Cubs' top prospects are currently in Single A or rookie leagues. Steele did well in the bullpen early this season after making his major league debut. He missed some time with a hamstring injury, then went to Iowa to get stretched into a starter's role.

Steele was a starter throughout his minor league run with the Cubs.

So if this experiment goes well, Steele could claim a spot in next season's rotation and maybe beyond. He was the first left-handed starter used by the Cubs this year.

The first three innings went smoothly. Steele rolled through the Brewers' order with just an infield single and coaxed seven ground ball outs.

"Going over the game plan, the sinker and the changeup was something that looked like it was going to play," Steele said. "So I threw more change-ups than I usually do, more sinkers than I usually so. It was part of the game plan. I was feeling comfortable with them back in Iowa."

In the fourth inning, the Brewers greeted Steele with home run by Willy Adames, double from Eduardo Escobar, then a rocket home run by Avisail Garcia to make it 3-1.

Steele settled in with no further damage, but those three batters were enough to hand him a loss. His final line was 5 innings, 5 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk and 1 strikeout on 70 pitches.

"These hitters are really good. I just took some deep breaths and realized there were more pitches to be made," Steele said. "I just went right back at them, I just brushed it off. You've got to get over those thing quick. It's baseball.

"Each time I go out there, I'm trying to prove something. I'm trying to show that I can be a part of this up-and-coming World Series run. That's why we're here. We're here to win championships. I'm going to do whatever I can to be a part of that. Each time I take the mound I'm going to show it."

When the game ended, Steele went back on the field to greet a large contingent of friends and family members who made the trip from his hometown of Lucedale, Mississippi.

"I like strikes with movement, deception," manager David Ross said. "Early on, it looked like he was pounding the zone. He was on the attack and was on cruise control early on with a lot of ground balls, a lot of soft contact to the left side."

The Cubs had plenty of chances to win this seven-inning game. They loaded the bases off Milwaukee starter Freddy Peralta in the third inning, but scored just once on a walk to Patrick Wisdom.

David Bote flied out to the warning track with a man on in the eighth. In the ninth, singles by Matt Duffy, Rafael Ortega and Ian Happ loaded the bases with one out before Brewers reliever Devin Williams struck out Wisdom and Greg Deichmann to end the game.

Alec Mills pitched well in Game 2, allowing no runs on 1 hit in 2 â…“innings of work. But the Cubs bullpen imploded in the fifth as the Brewers exploded for 6 runs off relievers Dan Winkler, Kyle Ryan and Jake Jewell.

Wisdom snapped a season-long 10-game home run drought with a solo blast in the fourth, putting the Cubs ahead 1-0. He also added an RBI double in the ninth.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSport

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