Cubs ‘clicking on all cylinders’ as rotation provides stability through 5-1 road trip

Lefty Justin Steele held the A’s to one earned run through six innings in the Cubs’ 12-2 win.

SHARE Cubs ‘clicking on all cylinders’ as rotation provides stability through 5-1 road trip
The Cubs’ Justin Steele pitches against the A’s on Wednesday.

The Cubs’ Justin Steele pitches against the A’s on Wednesday.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

OAKLAND, Calif. — Cubs left-hander Justin Steele gave a telling evaluation of his start Wednesday.

“I’ve had better starts,” he said after the Cubs’ 12-2 win against the A’s. “But it’s always good to go out there and put the guys in a good position to win the ballgame.”

Steele has had better starts after allowing one earned run in six innings that secured the series sweep in Oakland. He has recorded a quality start in each of his four outings to start the season, joining Marcus Stroman with that distinction. He also shut out the Brewers in his first start of the year and held the Dodgers to three hits and two runs through seven innings in his last outing.

“[Pitching] is going to carry us,” manager David Ross said this week.

Cubs starting pitchers have the best combined ERA (2.66) in the National League so far this season. Their last time through the rotation they allowed just three earned runs total and averaged over six innings per start.

“These guys are pounding the strike zone,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “And especially as an infielder, as a defender, you’re on your toes, you’re ready, you know it’s going to be a good pace.”

Said second baseman Nico Hoerner: “It’s nice knowing that you’re going to have a chance pretty much every time you’re out there. And there’s not a part of the rotation where it feels like, ‘Oh, we’ve got to win this one because so-and-so’s throwing well.’ We’re getting production from our whole group of starters.”

The Cubs didn’t have that kind of stability in the first half of last year, exacerbated by injuries to starters. But this season, they also have depth, with Javier Assad pitching in Triple-A and Kyle Hendricks (strained right shoulder) building toward a minor-league rehab assignment. Hendricks is scheduled to throw three innings in an extended spring-training game Saturday.

“We just have a great environment of sharing and learning information between all of us,” Stroman said Tuesday after throwing six shutout innings. “And then once one guy starts, it’s a momentum to pass the baton and keep it rolling. So we have a really good mix right now. And just to keep the confidence high all year long.”

Catcher Tucker Barnhart agreed with Steele that the lefty didn’t have his best stuff command-wise Wednesday. But he pushed through.

“It was a lineup that we knew we were gonna get aggressive swings early in the count,” Barnhart said, “and he was able to attack without his best stuff, and I think it’s [a] huge move forward.”

Steele mostly throws a two-pitch mix, which is rare for a starter. But Barnhart pointed to Steele’s ability to manipulate both his fastball and slider to make it feel like a larger arsenal.

“It’s super impressive,” Barnhart said. “It’s funky, it’s relentless, and his fastball just kind of goes away. . . . It shows how good both of those pitches are.

‘‘It’s hard to work your way through a lineup two or three times with two pitches, but he can do it with the best of them.”

With the Cubs’ blowout win Wednesday, they secured their fifth victory in the six-game road trip. Their only loss was a 3-2 walk-off in Los Angeles. They’ve won four consecutive series.

Said Steele: “We’re just clicking on all cylinders right now.”

The Latest
Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas promised changes were coming this offseason, and the first domino fell on Thursday, sending the defensive standout in Caruso to the Thunder for a promising play-making guard in Giddey.
The 19-year-old was standing on the sidewalk around 6:15 p.m. in the 1700 block of West 46th Street when someone approached him and fired shots, Chicago police said.
Guttman, a 25-year-old forward who has bounced between the AHL and NHL the past two seasons, will carry a $775,000 salary-cap hit.
Chicago Police Board member Andreas Safakas ruled to allow a disciplinary hearing on the case “that provides due process to all parties.”