Justin Steele threw six excellent innings and the Cubs fashioned a 2-0 lead on a pair of solo homers by Seiya Suzuki and Ian Happ, and I would love to be telling you about a Cubs sweep of the Brewers.
Unfortunately, the team had a bad bullpen meltdown, one of the worst of the year, and instead the Brewers won the game 5-2.
So let me tell you about the good stuff that happened Sunday at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs took the lead with two out in the first inning on a home run by Happ [VIDEO].
Happ’s 100th was caught by this kid celebrating his birthday [VIDEO].
So that’s pretty cool.
The Cubs added another solo homer in the fourth, a solo shot by Suzuki [VIDEO].
Suzuki had a nice game — three hits and a walk. It was his first home run (and first three-hit game) since August 9 at Washington. That accomplished this:
Last four Cubs with a walk, single, double and homer in a game:— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 21, 2022
Seiya Suzuki (today)
Frank Schwindel (8/13/21)
Kyle Schwarber (9/3/19)
Javy Báez (9/13/18)
The Cubs didn’t doing much else against Brandon Woodruff, though I want to give credit to Nick Madrigal, who led off the first inning with a 13-pitch at-bat against Woodruff. Madrigal flied to right, but this pushed Woodruff to a high pitch count and out of the game in the sixth inning.
Justin Steele, though, was magnificent on this summer afternoon. He allowed just two singles and a walk and struck out nine through six innings. Now, the question must be asked: Should Steele have been sent out for the seventh? He had thrown 89 pitches (56 strikes). I thought he should have at least started the seventh. What we don’t know is if Steele told David Ross he was done — that’s possible on a warm afternoon.
This is what Steele has done over the last few months:
Justin Steele's line: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 K.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 21, 2022
Steele has a 0.86 ERA in his last six outings with 41 K/9 BB in 31.1 IP. He has a 2.29 ERA in his last 14 starts with 80 K-26 BB in 78.2 IP, lowering his season ERA to 3.25 from 5.40 in that span.
He hasn’t just been the Cubs’ best pitcher over those last six outings, he’s been one of the best pitchers in the league. He’s throwing at ace level right now. Hopefully he can keep it up.
The bullpen Sunday, though, was just awful. Mark Leiter Jr. allowed a home run to Rowdy Tellez that made it 2-1, and it would have been 2-2 if not for this nice caught stealing, Yan Gomes to Christopher Morel covering second [VIDEO].
Unfortunately, just two pitches after Tellez’s homer, it was indeed 2-2 when Keston Hiura homered off Brandon Hughes.
Still, though... the game is tied. The Cubs still had a chance here, until Rowan Wick was touched up for a run in the eighth after a single and walk. The run scored on a sacrifice fly, and that happened only because Wick threw a pair of wild pitches in the inning. After a long stretch of good pitching Wick has been pretty bad recently. Hopefully he can work his way back to what he did in July and early August.
Still, though... it’s only 3-2, and maybe the Cubs could come back, except Kervin Castro issued a one-out walk and then Hiura hit his second homer of the game to make it 5-2 and pretty much put the game out of reach.
Suzuki doubled with one out in the ninth, but was stranded.
Here’s what I think about this game. It’s been quite some time since the Cubs had a bullpen meltdown as bad as this one. The Cardinals are coming to town Monday for a five-game series. If any of the current relievers are going to be part of the “Next Great Cubs Team,” they will have to step up and pitch better than that. If they don’t, Jed Hoyer will have to find better relievers. Simple as that.
One other oddity about this game: The weather, at last, cleared out and it was sunny most of the afternoon, but with a strong wind blowing in from the north. It was not a day when anyone would have guessed that five home runs would leave the yars.
It was still a successful series against Milwaukee, winning two of three, but it won’t get any easier with the Cardinals in town. Monday, Drew Smyly will face Jordan Montgomery, who’s been great since St. Louis acquired him from the Yankees. Game time Monday is 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.