05 Jul

coming up empty

Practically perfect for four innings and pretty darn good deep into the seventh, Justin Steele had the Chicago Cubs in position to win on Monday. Alas, they did not. Trying to hold a 1-0 lead, the Lucedale native gave up a run with two outs in the seventh and left the game. He had allowed just two hits, four walks and fanned nine. The Cubs would go on to lose to National League Central leader Milwaukee 5-2 in 10 innings. Steele got a no-decision, his eighth in 16 starts. It’s been that kind of year for Steele and the fourth-place Cubs (32-48). After a rough start to his second big league campaign — he was 1-5 with a 5.32 ERA through May — the 26-year-old left-hander has been sharp over his last seven starts, posting a 3.03 ERA. But he has just two wins in that stretch and is 3-5, 4.13, on the season. Drafted in Round 5 in 2014 out of George County High, injuries stalled Steele’s progress in the minors. The Cubs, world champs in 2016, were falling into rebuild mode by the time Steele arrived in April of 2021. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Steele utilizes a four-pitch mix and typically avoids hard contact, having yielded just five homers in 76 1/3 innings in 2022. His work since early June — after getting some tips from ex-Cubs star Jon Lester — would seem to have solidified his role in the Cubs’ future plans. P.S. Crystal Springs native Hunter Renfroe reportedly has resumed baseball activities and is close to returning to Milwaukee’s active roster. The ex-Mississippi State star has been on the injured list (calf) since June 23.

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