The National League (NL) Cy Young Award race has suddenly taken on a foggy quality.
Chicago Cubs left-handed ace Justin Steele, 28, has surged ahead of the San Diego Padres’ Blake Snell.
Steele started the Cubs’ home opener against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field on May 5 and pitched eight innings of two-hit ball with a career-high 12 strikeouts to lead the Cubs to a 5-0 victory.
His San Francisco counterpart, Logan Webb, gave up three runs on five hits in 6⅔ innings, but was unable to avoid the loss.
Steele has appeared in 26 games this season, throwing 152 innings with a 16-3 record, 2.55 ERA, and 153 strikeouts. He moved into a tie with the Atlanta Braves’ Spencer Strider (16-4) for the league lead in wins, while maintaining his second-place ERA and closing the gap on Snell (2.50) to 0.05.바카라
However, Steele ranks 14th in the NL in innings pitched and 14th in strikeouts, both of which are well behind Snell. He’s also less competitive in other metrics, including seventh in WHIP (1.14) and 13th in batting average (.242). In 28 games, Snell has 155 innings pitched, a 12-9 record, 201 strikeouts, a 1.25 WHIP, and a 0.191 BABIP. However, Steele has allowed 11 home runs and is averaging 0.65 per nine innings, the lowest in the NL.
Steele’s heat has come in the second half. In his last 10 starts, he went 7-1 with a 2.52 ERA. Most notably, he extended his personal winning streak to seven games dating back to July 22 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
After giving up a leadoff single to Casey Schmidt in the top of the second, Steele retired 16 straight batters through the seventh after striking out Paul Dijon on a wild pitch. In the eighth, he gave up a leadoff walk to JD Davis, but got Schmidt to fly out to center and then struck out Mike Yastrzemski on a wild pitch to end the inning after Dijon singled to left.
The Cubs took the lead in the bottom of the second inning on Seiya Suzuki’s mid-month solo home run, and then added two runs in the seventh on RBI singles by Suzuki and Jan Gomes after Cody Bellinger singled up the middle.
It was the first time in four years that a Cubs pitcher had 12 strikeouts in a game since Darvish Yu on Sept. 23, 2019, according to MLB.com. It was also the first time since 1901 that a Cubs pitcher had at least eight innings of no runs, two or fewer hits and 12 or more strikeouts.
Steele, who threw 107 pitches, topped out at 93.9 mph on his fastball and averaged 91.2 mph. He cooked San Francisco hitters with his fastball (73), slider (32), and two-pitch mix. He also threw a changeup and a sinker.
Steele was a fifth-round draft pick in 2014 and made his major league debut in 2021. He spent seven years in the minors. His development was slow due to frequent injuries. Last year, he showed promise, going 4-7 with a 3.18 ERA in 24 games. This year, he’s blossomed, earning his first All-Star selection and leading the league in adjusted ERA+.
The Cubs’ two-game winning streak puts them at 74-64, good for second place in the NL Central and the second wild card spot. Their playoff chances according to Fangraphs are at a season-high 79.3%.