Steele shines as Cubs win in extra innings
Two nights in a row at Washington, the Cubs did a terrible job of supporting a starting pitcher's solid performance.
Justin Steele pitched 6 innings without allowing an earned run and the Cubs squandered a 4-0 lead, but they finally pulled out a 7-5 victory in 11 innings.
The Cubs scored 2 quick runs in the top of the 11th as Patrick Wisdom ripped an RBI double down the third-base line and Seiya Suzuki followed with a single. Mark Leiter Jr. collected his first major-league save to seal the win.
While the Cubs improved to 7-4 in their last 11 games, Steele continued to show signs of being an upper-tier starter. The left-hander now has a 1.68 ERA over his last eighth starts. After a couple of high strikeout games, Steele settled for 5 on Tuesday, while giving up 5 hits and 2 walks.
"I felt good," he told reporters after the game. "I felt like I was kind of in control of all my pitches and was putting them where I wanted to when I wanted to. One of my better starts this year."
He stuck mostly with the four-seam fastball and slider in this game, using those pitches 88% of the time, according to Statcast.
"He threw some better change-ups today," manager David Ross said. "That's always nice to see, but when it mattered, he went to his bread and butter and that's important.
"I feel like I save this every one of his starts -- he just keeps getting better, right? His stuff was really electric tonight, 94-95 pretty consistently."
On Monday, the Cubs piled up 4 unearned runs to cost Marcus Stroman the chance at a win. This time, it was just 1 run unearned and more of a bullpen failure.
An errant pickoff throw by Steele set up Washington's first run in the bottom of the sixth. Erich Uelmen gave up a run on 3 hits in the seventh, then Luke Voit and Lane Thomas homered against Rowan Wick to tie the score in the eighth.
The 10th inning was a little strange. The Cubs started with a sharp single by Zach McKinstry. Ian Happ, the automatic runner, stopped at third, then McKinstry collided with the second baseman when Rafael Ortega followed with a ground ball. McKinstry was called out for interference and Happ had to stay on third.
After Nick Madrigal was hit by a pitch to load the bases, the Cubs finally scored a run on Willson Contreras' sacrifice fly, but Ortega was caught in a rundown between second and third, eventually ending the inning.
After that play, Contreras had a verbal confrontation with a fan behind the plate and teammates tried to calm him down as the fan was removed by security.
In the bottom of the 10th, Brandon Hughes struck out the first two batters before C.J. Abrams grounded a single through the right side and automatic runner Alex Call barely beat Suzuki's throw home to tie the score.
The Cubs got some big hits early in the game, including RBI doubles by Nelson Velazquez and Nico Hoerner, and run-scoring single from P.J. Higgins. When Franmil Reyes hit his second home run in his sixth game since joining the Cubs, the lead was 4-0.
Miley sharp in Iowa:
Cubs left-hander Wade Miley delivered a solid rehab start for the Iowa Cubs on Tuesday at Indianapolis, allowing no earned runs over 5 innings in a 2-1 victory. This was Miley's fourth rehab appearance as he attempts to come back from a left shoulder strain. He gave up a combined 9 runs in the first three.
The Cubs said hard-throwing reliever Manuel Rodriguez would pitch an inning at Iowa, but it didn't happen in Tuesday's game. Rodriguez has been sidelined for most of the season with a right elbow strain. He recently pitched 3 scoreless innings for the Arizona rookie league team.