Justin Steele stymies Padres as Cubs win series opener 6-0

Steele allowed three hits and held the Padres scoreless for 5 1⁄3 innings.

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Against the Padres on Tuesday, Cubs lefty Justin Steele improved his ERA to 1.19 ERA through five starts this season.

Against the Padres on Tuesday, Cubs lefty Justin Steele improved his ERA to 1.19 ERA through five starts this season.


The fact that Cubs left-hander Justin Steele’s scoreless start Tuesday against the Padres was his least efficient by pitch count this season speaks volumes to the bar he has set for himself.

In the Cubs’ 6-0 victory, Steele limited the Padres to three hits in 5⅓ innings. He left the game to cheers after 98 pitches, and the Cubs finished off their fifth shutout this season, tying the modern-era franchise record for the first 22 games.

‘‘You always see guys take strides in a year,’’ pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said in a conversation with the Sun-Times before the game. ‘‘They have time to work on things. You get locked in on what’s successful throughout the year.

‘‘And it’s a completely different thing for a guy to be able to take what he did well, go into the offseason with that focus and drive to continue to get better and continue to hone in on it, then start the season where he left off.’’

From the beginning of last season until now, Steele has done both.

Steele’s first four outings this season were quality starts. It was the first time in his career he had pitched at least six innings in four consecutive appearances.

He entered the game with a 1.17 ERA in his last 11 starts, stretching back to last season. It was the best ERA of any major-league pitcher with at least 10 starts during that span.

‘‘It’s just a product of taking each and every start and learning something from it and moving forward,’’ Steele said.

On Tuesday, the Padres never put up much of a scoring threat against Steele. Only two baserunners reached second base while he was in the game.

‘‘We’re starting to see him really maturing and growing as a pitcher,’’ catcher Yan Gomes said. ‘‘When we came into the season, we were talking about some of our young guys. I think he’s taking the next step of confidence and learning himself. And it’s exciting.’’

Gomes provided Steele with all the run support he needed by mashing a two-run home run in the second.

In the eighth, Gomes dropped an RBI single into right field for his fourth hit of the game to make it 3-0. Second baseman Nico Hoerner then capped the Cubs’ four-run rally with a three-run triple that extended his career-long on-base streak to 20 games.

Honoring Beth Murphy

Manager David Ross said he remembered stopping by Murphy’s Bleachers for lunch when restaurants first started reopening after the pandemic in 2020 and taking the food to his place around the corner.

‘‘She fed me a lot,’’ Ross said of Beth Murphy, the owner of the iconic tavern across the street from Wrigley Field. ‘‘She is probably one of the more kind people you’re going to meet and be around. A special, special person.’’

Before the game, the Cubs held a moment of silence for Murphy, who died Monday.

‘‘Beth is just a phenomenal human and has opened up that space for a lot of events,’’ Ross said. ‘‘Just taking care of a lot of friends and family for me.’’

Baby Belli born

Center fielder Cody Bellinger and girlfriend Chase Carter welcomed their second child, a healthy baby girl, into the world Sunday.

The Cubs put Bellinger on the paternity list and recalled Nelson Velazquez from Triple-A Iowa. Velazquez started in center against the Padres.

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