This was going to be a positive-themed recap despite the Cubs’ 7-1 loss to the Orioles, because Justin Steele righted the ship after two shaky innings and retired 13 of the final 14 Baltimore hitters he faced. (Honestly, I’d have let him at least start the seventh inning, as he was at just 85 pitches.)
But then Daniel Norris happened. Again. Norris came into the game relieving Chris Martin with two out and a runner on second and a 5-1 deficit. That might have been manageable, but he allowed that run to score plus another of his own and at that point, the game was over. (Not that it might not have been anyway, but...) One of the runs Norris allowed came in on a balk. The Cubs are now tied for the MLB lead in balks, with four.
I’ve asked this before and will ask again: Why is Norris on this team? Here, look at the Iowa roster; there are a handful of lefthanded relievers there and not one of them would be worse than Norris has been. It’s not like Norris is part of this team’s future. In 11 appearances since May 30: 9.88 ERA, 1.975 WHP, 1.011 opponents OPS. Just release the guy already.
All right, rant over, let’s look at this game, and this will be fairly brief, but to the point.
As noted, Steele had a rough first two innings. He allowed four hits and three runs in the first inning and that might have felt like “game over,” but after a call at the plate was overturned in the second, taking a potential Baltimore run off the board, Steele settled down.
Situation: Steele has hit a batter and walked another and there’s one out in the second. Trey Mancini doubled to left. One run scored, and Cedric Mullins was called safe, but that was overturned on review [VIDEO].
As you can see, Mullins did beat the throw, but his lead foot did not touch the plate and Willson Contreras tagged him before his back foot did. Nice defensive work on that one.
The Cubs put runners on second and third with one out in the third, but both Contreras and Ian Happ struck out.
Steele, as noted above, settled down after that play at the plate and of those 13 outs he recorded after it, eight were on ground balls and three others by strikeout. This shows some of the adjustments Steele has made which has had him putting up good results lately:
Ross on Steele this year:— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 14, 2022
"He's got the [four-seamer] that carries up, away to righties. That got to be a little bit non-competitive. I saw him adjust to pitching in more and pounding in, cutting the ball in there."
Here are 4-seamers to RHH April/May (Pic 1) and since June. pic.twitter.com/X3UQmtY2Bx
Since June 1: seven starts, 2.98 ERA, 1.252 WHIP, 3.61 FIP. That’s very good pitching and let’s hope it continues. Here are Steele’s three K’s on the evening [VIDEO].
The Cubs finally broke through on the board in the fifth. Christopher Morel tripled into the right-field well. Look at the excitement he shows — this team could use more of that [VIDEO].
But things never got closer than that, and we have already covered the bad eighth inning by Martin and Norris, putting the game out of reach. The Cubs did put a couple of runners on base in the bottom of the ninth, but down six, that hardly mattered.
What does matter is continuing to have guys like Norris on this team. Not that wins and losses make any difference at this point, but this is just embarrassing. (And as you recall, that’s not the first time I have used that word to describe the Cubs this year, also here and here.) There has to be someone better, even on a temporary basis.
I will give props to Rowan Wick, who I’ve also thought might not be long for this roster, for throwing a scoreless seventh. We will see if he can continue that.
The Cubs dropped to 20 games under .500 for the first time since the end of last season, when they finished 71-91. It was their sixth loss in a row, and Baltimore’s 10th straight win, the O’s longest winning streak since 1999.
None of this is likely to get much better when the NL East-leading Mets arrive Thursday evening to begin a four-game series. Keegan Thompson will throw the series opener for the Cubs and he’ll be opposed by Mets righthander Carlos Carrasco. Game time is again 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.