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Cubs 5, Giants 0: Justin Steele makes his Cy Young case

The Cubs lefthander was brilliant against the Giants Monday afternoon.

Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

All year, we have seen Justin Steele blossom into the ace the Cubs have needed for quite some time.

Monday afternoon was his best start of the year at a time when the Cubs needed it most. Steele threw eight shutout innings and struck out 12, a career high and season high for any Cubs pitcher, and the Cubs opened the homestand with a decisive 5-0 win over the Giants.

Both teams had a single baserunner in the first inning, a two-out walk, but did not score.

After Steele allowed a two-out single in the second, Seiya Suzuki put the Cubs on the board [VIDEO].

The homer was Suzuki’s 15th of the year, surpassing the 14 he hit last year — and there are still almost four weeks left in the season.

After that Steele and Logan Webb locked in an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel through the sixth. The Cubs had just one baserunner in that time, a two-out double by Yan Gomes in the fifth. Steele retired 16 straight Giants after the two-out single in the second. He was helped out defensively by this slick play by Dansby Swanson [VIDEO].

If you are a bit down on Dansby because he’s not hitting, remember plays like that and his good defense in general. He’s likely going to win another Gold Glove, and that kind of defense matters.

The Cubs finally put another run on the board in the bottom of the seventh. Cody Bellinger led off with a single and one out later, Suzuki doubled him in [VIDEO].

And one out later, Suzuki scored on a single by Gomes to make it 3-0 [VIDEO].

Steele came out for the eighth and issued a leadoff walk, but induced a double-play ball. Paul DeJong, who always used to torment the Cubs as a Cardinal, then singled. But Steele ended the inning, and his outing, with his 12th strikeout. Here are highlights from Steele’s excellent start [VIDEO].

And here’s a full breakdown of Steele’s 107 pitches (73 strikes) [VIDEO].

The Cubs broke the game open in the bottom of the eighth. Mike Tauchman led off with a walk. The next two hitters made routine outs, flying to left. Bellinger hit a grounder to second that should have ended the inning, but Thairo Estrada booted it for an error, Tauchman taking second.

A double by Swanson scored Tauchman [VIDEO].

Suzuki was the next hitter and grounded to third. Swanson held up the play long enough for Bellinger to score the fifth run [VIDEO].

That’s just real smart baserunning, further evidence of how valuable Swanson is to this team even if his BA isn’t great.

Julian Merryweather had been warming up for a save opportunity. Apparently Adbert Alzolay was being given an extra day of rest. But when the save op vanished with the fourth run, Jose Cuas got up and he was brought in to finish things up, which he did with a ground out, line drive to first and this strikeout [VIDEO].

That strikeout from Cuas was recorded at 3:19 p.m. CT and so this game ran one hour, 59 minutes. It thus became the first Cubs regular season game to be completed in under two hours since September 25, 2009, when Carlos Zambrano threw a two-hit shutout over the Giants in San Francisco. And it was the first sub-two hour game at Wrigley Field in more than 21 years, since this 1:49 game June 21, 2002, a three-hit complete game by Jon Lieber. The Cubs won 2-1, all three runs scoring on solo homers. It’s the 13th nine-inning game completed in under two hours this year. The pitch timer is working! Love this fast pace of play.

The Cubs picked up half a game on the Phillies for the top wild card spot and trail them by two games. The Phillies are at San Diego later tonight. The Cubs also moved to within three games of the Brewers for first place in the N.L. Central. The Brewers visit the Pirates this evening. The Cubs now lead the Giants by four in the wild-card race. As for the other wild-card contenders: The Reds are leading the Mariners as this recap posts, and the Marlins are off today, they will visit the Dodgers in Los Angeles tomorrow.

Lastly, this was the Cubs’ 74th win — matching their total from all of last year with 24 games remaining. They’d have to go 16-8 to win 90, but... who knows? The way this team has been playing, they just might do it.

As of the time of this recap, the Giants do not have a starter listed for Tuesday’s game. They seem likely to use an opener, as they have done many times this year. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs. Game time Tuesday is 6:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network (and also on TBS outside the Cubs and Giants market territories).