Cubs cash in on Steele's gem with second straight 7th-inning rally

August 10th, 2022

CHICAGO -- Thanks to a second straight seventh-inning rally, the Cubs are now winners of four of their five series since returning from the All-Star break -- the latest being a series win over the Juan Soto-less Nationals, capped off with a 4-2 victory Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

Through six innings the Cubs looked zapped offensively, with just one baserunner advancing to scoring position. However, the seventh inning was a different story. Much like Tuesday night, Chicago poured on four runs to tie and take the lead after the seventh-inning stretch. Nico Hoerner, like he has done all season long, got things going for the offense with a no-doubt blast to put the Cubs on the board. 

“[My approach was] nothing too different,” Hoerner said. “Seeing a starter a third time, which actually I don’t get to do that much, just seeing something down the middle.

“The identity of the group, obviously, is a developing thing,” Hoerner said of the team’s recent comebacks. “Really nice up-and-down contributions in the last couple games. Fun rallies, home games, series wins, all positive stuff.”

Nick Madrigal, Rafael Ortega and Ian Happ all added RBIs in the inning to flip the game’s script and give the Cubs an advantage. This time, they were able to hang on for the victory. Michael Rucker, Brandon Hughes and Rowan Wick all turned in zeros on the score sheet in their relief appearances.

“That’s Cubs baseball. I know the fans get into it, they help a lot,” Madrigal said. “It’s nice to really rally late in the game and get some tough wins. The pitching staff has been great, closing it down at the end, the timely hits -- Nico’s home run kicked everything off. Overall it’s just a great team win.”

The biggest reason Chicago was able to put together another late rally in the first place was because of Justin Steele’s excellent outing. The 27-year-old turned in a quality start, throwing six innings and allowing just two runs, while striking out nine. While Steele did allow a home run, the majority of the contact against him was soft -- with one of the runs scoring on a looping fly ball to center that Ortega misplayed.

“He’s been on a roll his last couple of starts,” said Cubs manager David Ross. “He did a nice job of finishing his outing.”

Steele has been missing bats well since the All-Star break, and he has looked like a much more consistent arm for Ross. In his last three starts, the lefty has allowed as many earned runs as walks (two) and has struck out a whopping 25 batters in just 14 1/3 innings -- the best three-start span of his young career.

“It’s all about being in the zone, on the attack,” Ross said. “He’s had a really nice feel for the breaking stuff.”

The latest outing comes on the one-year anniversary of Steele’s first career start, last season against Milwaukee, when he took a loss. While he did not get the 'W' in the column next to his name this time, the Cubs did -- and they can see his obvious growth over the span of a year.

“[I’m] not even the same pitcher,” Steele said. “Completely different. Completely different mindset, [I] just look at it completely different now. The way I attack lineups, the way I’m using my pitches, it's just been a year full of improvement.”

And as the season goes on, Steele isn’t done improving.

“I want to continue to hone in the command on both my fastballs,” he said. “I think moving forward, getting that third, fourth, fifth pitch honed in. … I really want to come in next year with a bonafide third, fourth pitch where I feel just as confident in those pitches as I do with my four-seam and my slider.”

Now the Cubs head to Iowa for the second annual Field of Dreams game, as they will take on the Reds Thursday near the site of the iconic 1989 movie. Cubs infielder Patrick Wisdom has his bucket list ready for the trip.

“Walk through the fields, see the house, win,” Wisdom said. “Hopefully we can bring a flag, and they can hoist it up too.”