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Justin Steele delivers best start of the year in Cubs’ win over Minnesota

12 months agoAndy Martinez

David Ross isn’t putting a whole lot of pressure on Justin Steele over the final few weeks of the season.

“Looking for him to compete, pitch at a high level,” David Ross told Marquee Sports Network’s Taylor McGregor prior to Wednesday night’s 3-0 win in Minnesota. “We’re not looking for it to be extremely long outings, we just want him to be at his best and let him turn it loose for as many outings as he can.”

For Steele that starts with using his four-seam fastball and his slider.

“[It] is his best attribute,” Ross said.

Having a good base of pitches is paramount for a starting pitcher. Then, being able to mix in a third pitch, a fourth pitch or more allows you to wade through a lineup a third or fourth time.

So, for Steele, it’s usually important to establish those first two pitches. Wednesday night, though, he used his two-seam fastball to effectiveness. Facing a mostly right-handed Twins’ lineup, Steele threw the pitch 41% of the time as he had his best outing of the season, pitching 5 scoreless innings. He struck out 3 and allowed just 1 hit while throwing 86 pitches.

Mixing his two-seamer and four-seamer created success for Steele as he went through the Twins’ lineup twice. It was his first start without allowing a run.

“I’d say out of all my starts I’ve had in the big leagues, tonight was the best night as far as commanding both my two-seam and my four-seam,” Steele said. “Like I’ve said previously, having both of them just makes everything else better.”

In the 2nd inning, Steele was able to escape a first and second, no-out jam by striking out Ryan Jeffers and inducing an inning-ending double play. He worked around a 2-out, first-and-third jam in the 4th inning, too.

After a 1-2-3 5th inning, Ross turned to Adbert Alzolay, who pitched 4 shutout innings, allowing 1 hit and striking out 5.

Just a real impressive [outing],” Ross said. “It just looked like he was in control the whole time. No stress. Just a really nice outing from both those guys.”

After the win, both Steele and Alzolay embraced and celebrated the win. 

“That was a lot of fun, watching one of my best friends coming in after me and shut the door the way he did,” Steele said. “We had a big hug afterwards. That’s just a really cool moment. Something I’ll never forget.”

It was Alzolay’s first appearance since August 13 against the Marlins. He’d been on the IL with a left hamstring strain. Ross said Tuesday that Alzolay would be used out of the bullpen the rest of the season so the Cubs could manage his innings.

“He can still maybe make a start or two,” Ross said. “I think for the most part it’s just about getting him through a full season and getting the length of a season under his belt where he’s been able to participate with the team most of the year.

Alzolay and reliever Dillon Maples were activated off the IL prior to the game and added to the expanded, 28-man roster. Maples was placed on the 10-day IL on July 29 with a blister.

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