Cubs’ Justin Steele, riding hot streak, faces Royals

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The Chicago Cubs are undefeated in five straight games with ace Justin Steele on the mound.

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Amid a tight postseason race, the host Cubs need that trend to continue while trying to avoid a second straight loss to the pesky Kansas City Royals on Saturday.

Chicago is off to a disappointing 1-2 start in its 12-game stretch against teams that are 10 or more games below .500. On Friday, the Cubs committed two errors, one of which was followed by Bobby Witt Jr.’s go-ahead, two-run homer in the sixth inning, and Kansas City went on to win 4-3.

“You can’t take any team lightly,” said Chicago pitcher Jameson Taillon, who took the loss after allowing four runs, but only two earned, in six innings. “Just because their record isn’t good doesn’t mean they’re not a good team with big-league players on it.”

The Cubs are 24-14 since July 4, but they have totaled just 33 runs while losing five of the last nine.

Scoring hasn’t been a problem in Steele’s past five starts. The Cubs have totaled 45 runs during that stretch, as he has gone 4-0. However, the left-hander has yielded three earned runs in each of his last three starts.

Steele (13-3, 2.79 ERA) has also failed to complete six innings in two consecutive outings. Most recently, in a no-decision on Aug. 12 at Toronto, he yielded six hits and struck out seven over five innings during Chicago’s 5-4 victory.

In his third big-league season, Steele ranked among the major league leaders in wins, ERA and WHIP (1.17), and he has already thrown a career-high 126 innings.

“We monitor everything around here, so we’re on top of it,” Chicago manager David Ross said of Steele’s workload. “He’s throwing well. He’s gonna continue to throw well. He wants the ball.”

Steele has never faced the Royals, who are last in the AL Central and coming off just their fourth win in the past 13 games. Witt, though, is batting .420 (34-for-81) with eight homers and 27 RBIs in his past 19 games.

Brady Singer (8-8, 4.91 ERA) will make his team-high 25th start for the Royals. The right-hander has recorded six quality starts in his past nine outings, and he is 3-0 with a 2.85 ERA while Kansas City has gone 5-1 in his past six.

During a 7-6 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Monday, Singer took a no-hitter into the seventh before Dominic Canzone hit a two-out single. Singer ended up allowing two runs on two hits and one walk while striking out eight over 7 1/3 innings.

“The pitches were just working,” Singer said. “I was able to throw them where I wanted to, and everything had the right movement to it. Just staying on the attack.”

Singer was far from stellar during his only previous outing against the Cubs. In August 2020, he allowed four runs, five hits and two walks while fanning eight in five innings of a 5-4 loss at Chicago.

Recently acquired Cubs infielder Jeimer Candelario, who had an RBI single and two walks on Friday, is 6-for-17 with two doubles versus Singer. Meanwhile, teammate Nick Madrigal is 4-for-8 against him.

The Cubs‘ Nico Hoerner has never faced Singer, but he is 14-for-32 (.438) in his past nine games.

It’s uncertain if Kansas City infielder Maikel Garcia, who is 21-for-63 (.333) in August, will be available after he exited the Friday game due to upper-body discomfort.

—Field Level Media

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