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Sunday’s game against the Giants was a good test, with Steele facing the best team in baseball in his sixth career big-league start.
Steele took the loss, pitching five high-stress innings while allowing five runs on 11 hits and two walks.
“It just didn't look like he had real good command of his stuff today,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “He battled his way through five and just didn't have his best stuff today.”
San Francisco scored in each of Steele’s final four innings, with the leadoff man reaching in each of those. He threw a career-high 101 pitches.
In fairness, Steele was facing the best team in the game, and they loaded their lineup with right-handed bats. The third run also came around on a groundball Matt Duffy bobbled that would have ended the fourth inning.
It was ruled a single, rather than an error.
But Steele also has got to be able to compete better if the Cubs are going to turn this rebuild around quickly.
“They have the best record in baseball for a reason,” Steele said. “But it still doesn’t take away from the fact that I need to execute pitches more often and make better pitches.”
Steele worked behind in the count throughout the outing. He threw 12 first-pitch balls to the 26 batters he faced.
Justin Steele: "I really need to go out there and get strike one, get ahead of hitters. When you're working behind in the count, it puts the advantage in the hitter's [favor] by a big margin. Getting strike one is going to be very important."
A look at his 0-0 pitches today... pic.twitter.com/HzzCrPYEHj
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 12, 2021
Of the 21 balls San Francisco put in play against him, 12 were considered hard hit, according to Statcast (95 mph exit velocity or greater).
“I really need to go out there and get strike one, get ahead of hitters," Steele said. "When you're working behind the counts, it puts the advantage in the hitters by a big margin.
“Getting strike one is going to be very important moving forward.”
Sunday’s outing came after consecutive encouraging starts from Steele. He threw five shutout innings Sept. 1 against the Twins, allowing one hit.
Monday, he allowed three runs in five-plus innings, fading in the sixth inning after five dominant innings.
“You’ve got to grind through outings, and that was one of them today,” Steele said. “You just have to grind through with what you’ve got.
"I would have liked to have left a lower number on the board, as far as score, but this is definitely a learning experience.
“You’ve just got to learn from it. You’ve got to grind through these outings where you don't have your best stuff. It's just a learning experience, and moving forward I’ve got to be better.”
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