David Ross rewarded for allowing Justin Steele to work out of fifth-inning jam
Steele loaded the bases before Austin Riley’s sacrifice fly with reliever Scott Effross warming. But Jason Heyward’s catch of Marcell Ozuna’s wind-swept drive near the right-field corner with two outs provided relief.
The development of left-hander Justin Steele took another step forward Saturday when he was allowed to work out of a fifth-inning jam, qualifying him for his first victory since April 9.
Steele (2-5), with the benefit of a 4-2 lead, escaped further danger with the help of Jason Heyward’s running catch in right field in the Cubs’ 6-3 victory over the Braves.
Manager David Ross was impressed that Steele worked out of the jam after allowing a homer to Adam Duval to start the inning. Steele loaded the bases before Austin Riley’s sacrifice fly with reliever Scott Effross warming. But Heyward’s catch of Marcell Ozuna’s wind-swept drive near the right-field corner provided relief.
“You can build off that outing,” Ross said of Steele, who has a 1.89 ERA in three June starts and has allowed three runs or fewer in six of his last seven starts since May 8.
“I definitely wanted to finish that inning,” Steele said. “It’s one of those situations that I got myself in that situation. If someone is going to give up those runs, I want to do it.”
Steele’s turnaround started shortly after former Cubs great Jon Lester suggested in a text to Ross that Steele try to attack the lower, inside corner to right-handed hitters.
“Since he’s told me, that’s been my main thing, especially the way my ball is cutting [inside],” Steele said. “My sinker is going the other way, and I’m using my changeup and slider more. It felt good.”
Ross emphasized his coaches already emphasized attacking that area when Lester’s message was disclosed.
Third time a charm?
With a three-run lead, Ross was willing to let Steele face the Braves’ order for the third time, as he did Friday with Keegan Thompson, who retired the top three batters with ease before walking Matt Olson to open the seventh.
“We’re in an area where we can give some guys some run,” Ross said before the game. “And we got to find out. I don’t necessarily believe that’s for everybody. And it depends on how you get there for me, how many tricks in your bag you might have to use to get there.”
Schwindel to IL
In a surprising development, the Cubs elected not to play short-handed and put first baseman Frank Schwindel on the 10-day injured because of a low back strain.
Ross said Schwindel experienced similar discomfort in spring training, in which he was given three days off before his back gradually felt better.
Schwindel felt discomfort while running to first base in the second inning Friday and immediately left the game.
Alfonso Rivas was recalled from Triple-A Iowa, where he was batting .346 with two doubles and one home run in six games. Rivas went 2-for-3.