Justin Steele continues to be one of the most pleasant surprises for the Chicago Cubs this season.
Steele is 3-0 and has made four straight quality starts to begin the season with a miniscule 1.44 ERA. Dating to last year, he has given up two earned runs or fewer in 11 consecutive starts.
The left-hander tossed six solid innings Wednesday and allowed two runs (one earned) with five strikeouts in a 12-2 win over the Oakland Athletics.
Steele had terrific command and certainly impressed his manager.
“Great performance by Steelie,” David Ross said. “I thought he did what he does well. … He made his pitches down and in, the slider off that, the breaking ball, broke out the changeup only a few times today, but he pounded the zone with what he did well, and I thought he had a lot of success in that.”
Steele noted that the positive momentum has carried over from last season.
In 2023, he’s been even more dominant.
“I felt like even the first half of last year, I was constantly putting stuff together, figuring stuff out, always adapting, always learning,” Steele told reporters. “And I kind of feel like the stuff that was going on in the first half started coming together and falling my way, and I just kind of caught a groove.”
Getting that type of offensive production will make any pitcher relax.
Chicago’s starting rotation leads the National League with a 2.96 ERA and .217 opponents’ batting average. While Steele has only taken the baseball four times, it looks like a special season could be awaiting.
“I feel like we’ve all been doing our job,” Steele said. “Just as far as the whole team goes, we’re kind of just clicking on all cylinders right now.”
In his third professional season, Steele seems to have figured things out.
“A little more experienced, a little more mature,” he said. “I’m able to attack things differently, and that feels good for me.”
And for the Cubs.