Justin Steele shines again, but Cubs fall to Diamondbacks in extra innings
A day after a pitcher’s duel and a gem by Arizona’s ace and Cy Young candidate, the Cubs’ ace followed suit with a stellar performance of his own.
Justin Steele was terrific again, allowing just one run — an RBI-groundout in the 5th inning — while striking out 6 in 7 innings of work but the Cubs dropped a tough one 3-2 to Arizona in extra innings.
Tied at 1 in the 10th, Arizona scored twice as Daniel Palencia struggled with command, hitting a batter and throwing a wild pitch that directly led to 2 runs.
“I think these moments are good for young guys. He’s been good in a lot of moments,” manager David Ross said. “Some things kinda snowballed there to get him that extra one. Yeah you gotta do a better job just being able to lock in those moments. Sometimes, going through that and some struggles makes you better on the other side.”
In the bottom of the 10th, the Cubs looked to have an extra base hit from Ian Happ, but Lourdes Gurriel Jr. made a stellar catch in left field to rob him and hold Mike Tauchman at second. The next batter, Cody Bellinger singled and was stranded at first when Dansby Swanson popped out behind home plate to end the game.
“Made a great play,” Swanson said of Gurriel, “It’s one those things, like we talk about, breaks going your way. If that gets over his head and then Belli comes up and game’s tied.”
The outing lowered Steele’s ERA to an MLB-best 2.49 as he remains firmly entrenched in the NL Cy Young race. His 1.13 WHIP ranks 6th in the NL among qualified pitchers.
Arizona’s lineup gave Steele fits most of the afternoon, but the lefty never really broke. He showcased his ability to pitch out of jams in a multitude of ways.
After a leadoff single to open the game, Steele induced a forceout, flyout and then a strikeout. In the 2nd, after a 1-out single, Steele struck out Corbin Carroll and Emmanuel Rivera to escape the jam. The next inning, he stranded a leadoff double by inducing a groundball to short, a strikeout and then a flyball.
“He was sharp. Pitched out of some jams here and there, but I didn’t think they got a whole lot going,” Ross said. “It was just another well-pitched game from both sides.”
In the 4th, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. had a 1-out single. Steele forced Evan Longoria into an inning-ending double play. Steele really locked in after allowing his lone run. The Cubs’ ace retired the last 12 batters he faced after Rivera’s 5th inning single.
Yan Gomes hit a ball off the wall with 1 out in the 9th, but he was nabbed at second as he tried to stretch it into a double. Nick Madrigal followed with a double, but was left there when Mike Tauchman grounded out to end the inning.
“Good hustle play there by him, just really nice play by Gurriel in left,” Ross said. “I think you’re hoping for it and then Madg behind him, trades places with him. Just couldn’t seem to get that thing going our way there at all today offensively.”
The Cubs struck first in the 3rd inning on an incredibly wonky play.
After reaching first on a bunt single, Nico Hoerner scored on a seemingly routine popup from Cody Bellinger that dropped between a pair of Diamondbacks’ infielders.
Julian Merryweather and Adbert Alzolay pitched the 8th and 9th, respectively, for the Cubs. Alzolay worked out of a bases-loaded, 2 out jam in the 9th by inducing a groundball out from Gabriel Moreno.