The current list of National League ERA leaders includes an array of familiar names, from Clayton Kershaw to Marcus Stroman to Atlanta sensation Spencer Strider. But the leader of this pack is a left-hander from Mississippi who is having a breakout season. Justin Steele, former George County High standout, trimmed his ERA to a 1.19 by throwing 5 1/3 shutout innings Tuesday in the Chicago Cubs’ 6-0 win against San Diego at frigid Wrigley Field. Steele is 4-0 — tied for the NL lead in wins — over five starts with victories against the Padres, Oakland, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas. “I’ve just been trying my hardest to be consistent …,” Steele said in an Associated Press article. He has gone at least 5 1/3 in each of his starts and hasn’t allowed more than four hits or two runs in any of them. His WHIP is 0.89. Drafted out of high school in 2014 (fifth round) by the Cubs, Steele battled through injuries before finally reaching the majors in 2021. He moved into the Cubs’ rotation last year and went 4-7, 3.18, in 24 outings. That effort appears to have been just a tease about what was to come.
On a wacky Wednesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, Lance Lynn took the ERA lead in the American League. That was a good thing. But the former Ole Miss standout said he felt miserable during the game — and that was before he was ejected for throwing his belt from the dugout onto the field following the top of the fourth inning. That was a bad thing. But the first-place White Sox won the game 3-2 over Oakland as a gang of relievers – including Ocean Springs’ Garrett Crochet – closed it out. So, that was a good thing. Lynn, apparently dealing with a physical issue, battled through his four innings, throwing 88 pitches while yielding one run on three hits and three walks. All he needed was to throw 1 1/3 innings Wednesday to qualify for the ERA lead, which he now owns with a 2.26. But he would have liked to go more than four. Lynn’s night ended when third-base umpire Nic Lentz tossed him for tossing his belt. It was his first career ejection. Lynn had left his glove and hat on the field for the obligatory sticky-stuff inspection as he hustled into the dugout, he said, to see the trainer. The ump yelled for the belt. Lynn threw it. “(O)bviously, I hurt his feelings,” Lynn said in a postgame interview. Lynn, who can be a little intense, vowed to be back on the bump in five days. P.S. Mississippi State alum Jacob Robson, 0-for-7 in four games with Detroit, was optioned to Triple-A Toledo. He was having a strong season there and will probably get another big-league look.
Two former Mississippi college stars, each of whom pitched a gem on Monday night, have risen to the top in ERA in their respective leagues. Mississippi State alumnus Brandon Woodruff, now with Milwaukee, leads the National League with a 1.41, and Ole Miss product Lance Lynn, with the Chicago White Sox, heads the American League with a 1.51. Woodruff stopped San Diego’s nine-game win streak Monday, throwing seven shutout innings (three hits, no walks, eight strikeouts) in a 5-3 win. It was the big right-hander’s ninth straight quality start. “This is brilliance,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. Woodruff’s record is just 3-2; the Brewers haven’t given him much offensive support in his 10 starts. Lynn has had no such problem. He improved to 5-1 over eight starts, tossing seven innings (three hits, one run) in a 5-1 victory against his original team, St. Louis. The burly right-hander called it “probably the most satisfying (win) I’ve ever had.” Note: He has 109 career wins and won a World Series with the Cards. … A pair of former Mississippi high school stars claimed player of the week awards in their respective leagues. Madison Central alum Spencer Turnbull, who threw a no-hitter for Detroit last week, shared the AL award with Corey Kluber, who also tossed a no-no, and DeSoto Central product Austin Riley won the NL award after hitting .462 with six homers and 11 RBIs last week for Atlanta. P.S. No relief pitcher in the big leagues has a better ERA than State product Kendall Graveman, who has not allowed a run in 16 2/3 innings while racking up five saves for Seattle. Unfortunately, Graveman is currently on the COVID-19 injured list with an uncertain return date. … Ex-Richton High star JaCoby Jones was demoted to Triple-A by Detroit, presumably to find his swing. The sixth-year big leaguer is batting .170 with 42 strikeouts in 100 at-bats.