MINNEAPOLIS — The Cubs have been looking for a start where things went left-hander Justin Steele’s way. After a few rough outings over his first three starts in the rotation, Steele finally had the outing they’ve been looking for.
“Justin looked really good,” manager David Ross said after the win. “I thought the fastball was electric, to be honest with you.”
It took Steele a few innings to get himself into a groove in the Cubs’ 3-0 victory against the Twins. He walked two and hit a batter over his first two innings but then got himself into a rhythm by not allowing a hit until a perfectly executed hit-and-run by Brent Rooker in the fourth inning.
Steele, who used his sinker to induce seven groundballs, tossed five scoreless innings and allowed just one hit. He walked three and struck out three. It’s the first start since joining the rotation that he hasn’t allowed an earned run.
“I’d say out of all my starts I’ve had in the big leagues, tonight was the best night as far as commanding both my two-seam and my four-seam [fastballs],” Steele said. “It was something I was really focusing on coming into this start.
“Even in the bullpen prior to the game, I threw a bunch of fastballs. Just making sure I had those two working for me tonight. And like I’ve said previously, having both of them just makes everything else better.”
Command of the fastball has been a point of emphasis for Steele, and it clearly helped him as he went through the Twins’ lineup with few issues.
“He was sinking it hard,” Ross said. “He sped some guys up with the four-seam and sank away the second time through [the order]. Some really good off-speed pitches mixed in there, but I thought the fastball played today.”
Schwindel homers in third straight game
First baseman Frank Schwindel has been a force at the plate since being recalled on July 30 and has joined the list of veteran first-year players who have made an impact.
Schwindel came up big in the third inning. With runners at second and third with two outs, he turned on a 1-1 fastball and hit a homer into the left-field seats, giving the Cubs a 3-0 lead. Schwindel has now has gone deep in a career-high three consecutive games.
Alzolay, Maples activated from IL
The Cubs activated right-handers Adbert Alzolay and Dillon Maples from the 10-day injured list.
Alzolay, who had been out of the rotation with a left hamstring strain since Aug. 14, did well in his first relief appearance, tossing four scoreless innings with five strikeouts, picking up his first career save.
“It was a lot of fun, honestly. Watching my best friend come in after me and shutting the door the way he did,” Steele said of Alzolay. “A four-inning save doesn’t happen very often. It was really special to watch.”
Maples had been on the IL since July 29 with a right middle finger blister. He’s 1-0 with a 2.28 ERA in 24 appearances.