Injury forces Steele to leave early in Cubs' latest loss
Last year in early May, the Cubs swept a three-game series against the Dodgers at Wrigley Field. It helped begin a spring surge that saw the Cubs soar to 11 games above .500.
News flash: This isn't last year, not that Cubs fans needed any reminder.
The Dodgers completed a three-game sweep Sunday by rolling to a 7-1 victory. The Cubs lost the series by a combined score of 20-3 as their record dropped to 9-18. They lost all five on this homestand and have dropped 14 of their last 17 games.
"We've got a long way to go, no sense in getting frustrated right now," Cubs manager David Ross said. "Nobody likes to lose. I think everybody gets frustrated when you lose. I see the effort, I see these guys continue to work hard and fight all the way till the last out."
The night started out promising. Left-hander Justin Steele stepped in to replace starting pitcher Marcus Stroman and had a nice outing in the works. But Steele left the game before the start of the fifth inning due to left thumb soreness. He came out and threw a few warmup tosses, then signaled for the trainer.
The Cubs could really be in a bind for starting pitching if Stroman and Steele are not able to make their next starts. Steele said after the game he thinks he'll be able to stay in the rotation as the team heads to San Diego and Arizona.
"I really liked what I was doing out there," Steele said. "Felt really good with all my pitches, felt like I was commanding the ball when I needed to, throwing good sliders, breaking balls, change-ups, two-seams. Felt like everything was working today. Just want to take what I did good today and keep it moving."
As far as the injury, Steele said he started feeling soreness on the back of his thumb in the fourth inning when he tried to grip the slider. He compared it to something he's felt playing other sports, but not baseball until Sunday.
"Yeah, like playing basketball or football and it jams your thumb," he said. "That's kind of what it felt like, but obviously wasn't playing basketball or throwing the football around. It feels weird.
"It's obviously frustrating when you're pitching well. You want to stay out there as long as you possibly can when you have your stuff rolling. You just have to put your head down and keep moving forward."
Stroman went on the injured list Sunday. There was no injury designation to go along with the move, which means he can be reactivated at any time. It also suggests it was due to a positive COVID test, but the team does not confirm those details. Kyle Hendricks is slated to start Monday against the Padres. After that is anyone's guess.
The Cubs actually got off to a 1-0 lead against Dodgers starter Walker Buehler when Rafael Ortega led off with a double and scored on Willson Contreras' two-out single. But the Cubs added just 2 more hits the rest of the way as Buehler coasted through 7 innings.
The fourth inning was a tough one for Steele where 2 walks and 2 infield hits led to 2 runs. He could have been out of the inning without allowing any runs by getting a called third strike on Max Muncy. The 2-2 pitch should have been Strike 3 according to the ESPN broadcast, but it was called a ball and Muncy eventually walked.
"The more he's in the zone, the better he is," Ross said of Steele. "Just continue to harp on that. I think he's going to be really good if we can just get him in there (the strike zone) a little more."
Michael Rucker came on in the fifth with no advance warning and gave up three straight singles to load the bases. Los Angeles scored once on a double play and again on a wild pitch to go ahead 4-1.
Third baseman Patrick Wisdom was not in the lineup after leaving Saturday's evening game with an ankle contusion. Ross said before the game Wisdom was feeling better and was available off the bench.