A pair of promising young pitchers square off as the visiting Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds conclude their series on Thursday afternoon.
The Cubs send left-hander Justin Steele (1-4, 3.82 ERA) to the mound as they pursue their third win in the four-game set.
Steele, in his second major league season, got a no-decision in his latest start. On Saturday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, he threw five scoreless innings, allowing one hit and two walks while striking out nine. Steele became the 11th left-hander in Cubs history to strike out nine or more batters in consecutive games.
Steele sports an 0-1 record and a 6.00 ERA in four career appearances (two starts) against the Reds. The southpaw is 0-1 with a 6.43 ERA in three games (one start) in Cincinnati, where Reds batters are hitting .290 (9-for-31) against him.
Aiming for a series split, the Reds counter with rookie Hunter Greene (1-6, 5.49 ERA). The right-hander, who won his major league debut on April 10 in Atlanta, is making his ninth start.
Greene, riding a personal six-game losing streak, was the tough-luck loser two starts ago in Pittsburgh, where he didn’t allow a hit in 7 1/3 innings. The 22-year-old flame-thrower fanned nine but walked five in Pittsburgh’s 1-0 win.
After getting tagged for eight runs on nine hits over just 2 2/3 innings on May 5 in Milwaukee, Greene has rebounded strongly in his last three outings, posting a 1.93 ERA with 21 strikeouts. Greene, who is set for his first career start against the Cubs, has allowed four runs on eight hits in his past 18 2/3 innings, earning quality starts in his past two appearances.
The lineup behind Greene still won’t include Jonathan India, who is in his second stint on the injured list due to a right hamstring strain.
“He’s going to be another 10 days to two weeks before he plays in a rehab assignment,” Reds manager David Bell said of the second baseman. “He’s doing everything 100 percent, but it’s a controlled environment and he saw a doctor (Monday) and it’s not fully healed. So, there’s risk in having him go to play in an uncontrolled environment.”
India injured his hamstring on April 14 in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. He returned for four games before it tightened again during the April 29 game in Colorado. The 2021 National League Rookie of the Year has been on the IL since.
The Cubs sent catcher Yan Gomes to the injured list before Wednesday’s game with a left oblique strain and activated infielder Nico Hoerner off the IL. Gomes, the backup to the also-injured Willson Contreras, is hitting .247 this season in 73 at-bats.
Contreras, who came out of the Saturday game against Arizona with a strained hamstring but avoided the injured list, was medically cleared Wednesday to be available off the bench. He flied out to deep center as a ninth-inning pinch hitter in the Cubs’ 4-3 loss to the Reds.
Chicago’s Frank Schwindel went 0-for-4 on Wednesday after a recent hot streak. The designated hitter had hit four home runs in the previous four games, including his first career multi-homer game on Tuesday in the Cubs’ 11-4 win at Cincinnati.
“I think his timing just continues to get better and better every time you see him in the box,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “He’s on a lot of pitches. I think staying on that breaking ball up the middle was really impressive as well.”
Both homers Tuesday went to right field for the right-handed batter, who has six homers on the season.
“Being able to (hit to the opposite field) means I’m doing a lot of things right,” Schwindel said. “(I’ll be) looking to build on that.”
–Field Level Media