Good Cubs pitching news: Steele has just a strain, and Taillon finally has a good start
The Cubs -- reeling after a maddening May -- got some much-needed good news Friday when they learned starting pitcher Justin Steele has just a mild forearm strain.
Steele, who ranks eighth in MLB with a 2.65 ERA, left his last start after just 3 innings when he felt left forearm tightness.
Bruce Levine of WSCR 670-AM reported that Steele will miss only one start.
With that settled, the biggest remaining question Friday was whether or not Jameson Taillon could snap out of a season-long funk at San Diego.
Taillon, who was thought to be a huge addition to the staff when he inked a four-year, $68 million deal in December, has instead been a huge liability.
The 31-year-old veteran entered Friday with an 8.04 ERA, fourth worst among pitchers with at least 30 innings. His last five starts were even worse as he'd allowed 27 hits, 7 walks and 23 runs (21 earned) over 17.33 innings for a 10.90 ERA.
He's looked nothing like the pitcher who went 51-35 with a 3.84 ERA for the Pirates and Yankees from 2016-22.
"I put it more on me," Taillon said after his last appearance on May 27 at Wrigley Field. "At this point in my career, I should have had a better grasp of who I am and what I do well and where I need to be mechanically. We've identified the problems and I think we have kind of a good idea of where we need to be going forward."
Apparently, that talk wasn't all hot air as Taillon's stuff was absolutely electric during the Cubs' 2-1 victory over the Padres. He needed just 7 pitches to complete the first inning, 12 in the second and 18 in the third.
After retiring the first 10 batters, Taillon allowed an infield single to Fernando Tatis Jr., then took care of the next five hitters as the Cubs nursed a 2-0 lead heading into the sixth.
Taillon finally ran into a bit of trouble at that point, giving up a leadoff double to Rougned Odor and an RBI single to Xander Bogaerts. After getting Tatis to pop out to third, Ross removed Taillon after a 75-pitch effort in which he gave up just 3 hits, walked none and struck out three in 5⅔ innings.
It was Taillon's longest outing since joining the Cubs. His ERA fell to 7.05.
"He said to me after the game: 'Now we go,'" Ross said of Taillon. "We talked about his last outing (and) taking some steps forward, and I think (tonight) really felt good for him. Hopefully he's able to build off that (and) stabilize our rotation on the back side."
Brandon Hughes came on in relief and -- after walking Juan Soto -- got Manny Machado to ground out.
The Cubs took advantage of a rare off night from Padres starter Michael Wacha, who walked five and struck out eight in 4⅔ innings. Wacha's ERA in his previous five starts was 0.84.
The Cubs grabbed a 1-0 lead in the third when Nico Hoerner scored on a fielder's choice ground ball by Ian Happ. They made it 2-0 in the fifth on a solo home run by Dansby Swanson, his sixth of the season.
Swanson went 3-for-4 to raise his average to .274.
The Cubs' bullpen was also outstanding as Mark Leiter Jr. struck out the side in the ninth to record his third save while Adbert Alzolay induced a 5-4-3 double play with nobody out in the eighth.
The Cubs are now 25-31 overall and 10-15 on the road.
• The Cubs traded RHP Vinny Nittoli to the Mets on Friday for cash considerations. Nittoli, 32, had a 5.23 ERA with Triple-A Iowa this season in 16 appearances (20⅔ innings).