Royal Showing: Justin Steele, Cubs offense shine in London opener
The field conditions were conducive to offense — the Cubs’ hitters showed that.
The Cardinals lineup was littered with potency — 18 All-Star Game appearances, a former MVP and a top prospect confirmed that.
None of that mattered to Cubs’ starter Justin Steele.
The lefty turned in one of his best outings of the year, on one of the biggest stages of his life, tossing 6 innings of 1-run ball with 8 strikeouts as the Cubs beat the Cardinals 9-1. Steele kept the Cardinals at bay day, allowing the Cubs’ bats, including Ian Happ, to shine against Adam Wainwright.
“Something I’ll never forget,” Steele told reporters after the game. “Truly special. Felt like everybody was on the mound there with me. Really exciting. A lot of energy.”
Happ had 2 home runs off the Cardinals’ righty, becoming the first Cub to homer in a major-league game in Europe. His first one came in the 2nd inning and his second an inning later. The moment will be forever immortalized at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. Happ’s batting gloves from the day are headed there to commemorate the game and event.
“It’s super cool,” Happ said. “I think if there’s a time that the Hall of Fame asks for anything, you’ve done something pretty cool. To have those moments, that’s one of the most special parts of what we get to do.”
Steele cruised through much of the night, retiring the side in order in 3 separate innings. Steele first ran into trouble in the 5th. He allowed a leadoff single to Jordan Walker. After getting a pair of outs, he allowed a bloop double to Paul DeJong that advanced Walker to third. He induced a Brendan Donovan lineout to Happ to escape the jam.
St. Louis started the 6th inning with 3 straight hits — a double and 2 singles — to plate their first run. Steele responded by striking out the next three batters, letting out his emotions as his day ended.
“He dug down deep there at the end when some traffic was on base and really kinda locked it in,” manager David Ross told reporters. “He wanted the ball back from [catcher] Yan [Gomes] as fast as he could get it. You could just tell that finishing moment from him was coming and he wanted. It was really nice to see that body language from him on the backside — we’ve had a long couple of days.”
Pics that go hard 😤 pic.twitter.com/R2WHOweZ98— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 24, 2023
The bottom three of the Cubs’ lineup — Christopher Morel, Gomes and Nick Madrigal — were a combined 7-for-12 with 3 RBI and a double. The Cubs had 9 hits with two outs on Saturday, the most they’ve had in a game this season. Six of the Cubs’ 9 runs were scored with 2 outs. Morel’s 3-hit day was extra special — it came on his 24th birthday.
“This was special,” Morel told reporters. “This is my first birthday in another country, playing in the big leagues, get this game and win this game, so it’s super special. God is good. Thanks for the teammates, we’re doing a really good job and we can do [it in] the next game, too.”
They’ll have a good shot tomorrow, too. Their ace, Marcus Stroman will toe the rubber. He’s been on a dominant run of late, going 7-0 in his last 7 starts with a 1.29 ERA and .161 batting average against.
“You gotta come out and see the ‘Stro Show,'” Ross said with a laugh. “It’s gonna be fun … but if the fan’s want entertainment, definitely show up tomorrow. They’re gonna get a good show.”