SAN FRANCISCO – After strong starting pitching carried the Cubs to a season-high winning streak, poor defense ended it at six games.
The Cubs fell to the Giants 4-2 Thursday at Oracle Park to open a four-game series.
“That’s just baseball, it’s part of the game,” Cubs starter Justin Steele said of the mistakes behind him. “There’s going to be days like that.”
The trouble started in the third inning when third baseman Patrick Wisdom missed a popup, awkwardly diving after the ball as it landed behind him. Next, Giants leadoff hitter Austin Slater hit a dribbler up the third baseline. Steele tried to cut it off, while Wisdom retreated to the base, but it rolled out of Steele’s reach.
The Giants’ next two hits also simply found holes. Yermín Mercedes poked a fly ball into shallow center field. Thairo Estrada hit a grounder deep into the five-hole, and Cubs shortstop Nico Hoerner gloved it. But he didn’t have enough time to get off a throw. By the end of the inning, the Cubs trailed 3-0.
The theme of sloppy defense behind Steele carried into the next frame. Hoerner sailed a throw to first base to put David Villar on base. Then, with two outs, Steele gave up an RBI double.
His pitch count had climbed to 84 through 3 ⅔ innings, and manager David Ross pulled him from the game.
“It was still one of those outings were he had to work kind of hard in some moments,” Ross said. “But yeah, we didn’t play well behind him. ... When you play good defense, get out of things, you never know what kind of outing a starter can have, and we had to cut it short a little bit.”
It was Steele’s first start of less than five innings since May 26 at Cincinnati. All four of the runs he allowed Thursday were unearned.
“As far as executing pitches, I feel like I could have done a better job locating my fastball,” Steele said. “I was throwing strikes with it but I wasn’t putting it exactly where I wanted to. So, going forward, I want to be able to command my fastball rather than just control it.”
Giants starter Alex Wood kept the Cubs offense quiet until the seventh inning, when Ian Happ broke up the no-hitter with a ground ball single into center field to lead off the frame. Wisdom brought him home with a two-run homer that bounced off the top of the left-field wall. It was Wisdom’s 50th career home run.
“He’s really deceptive, mixed his pitches really well” Ross said of Wood. “we chased a little bit out of the zone in some hitters counts at times. But he’s a really tough pitcher, got a lot coming at you, a guy we don’t face a whole lot. He’s tough to size up.”