CINCINNATI – It’s hard to find many positives in a 14-5 result that now gives the club their 12th consecutive loss, their longest in nine years.
But it’s worth pointing out that the game was still within reach when the Cubs’ starting pitcher left the mound after four innings against the Reds at Great American Ballpark on Monday night.
In just his second start on the season, rookie Justin Steele allowed two runs on five hits over the course of four frames and 82 pitches. He didn’t go as long as his first start – a five-inning start against the Brewers on August 10th – but he surrendered one less run while striking out five as opposed to one the week before.
“I thought he was pretty impressive,” said manager David Ross of Steele’s outing. “I thought he had electric stuff. I thought he moved the fastball around really well. Pitched out of some jams. Made pitches when he had to; really nice job getting out of some traffic there in the third, I believe.
“I thought he threw well. Looked like the slider and the breaking stuff was really sharp tonight. I was impressed.”
That’s something good for Ross to say after the team’s bullpen fell apart after Steele left, leading to the Cubs allowing ten-or-more runs for the fourth time in their last six games. Developing the 26-year old pitcher into a long-term starter is one of the goals of what is left of the 2021 season for the Cubs as they’re forced to rely heavily on younger players.
Steele made 11 relief appearances during his times at the MLB level since April and now will get a handful of chances to show his stuff as a starter the last six weeks of the season.
“I’m always trying to get myself better for the team. I’m gonna go out there and do everything that I can to win ballgames. I’m going to go out there and compete my tail off every time,” said Steele. “It doesn’t matter what the situation is, doesn’t matter what our record is. I don’t really pay attention to those things.
“Whenever I have the rock, I’m gonna go out there and compete.”
That’s all anyone can ask for as this Cubs season comes to a close and the focus turns to the future.