Justin Steele

Steele, Hoerner help Cubs beat Orioles 3-2 for season-high 5th straight win

Justin Steele made his return and pitched five innings of two-run ball as the Cubs picked up their fifth win in a row.

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CHICAGO (AP) — Justin Steele returned just in time. He was getting a little antsy on the injured list.

Steele pitched five innings of two-run ball, and the Chicago Cubs topped the Baltimore Orioles 3-2 on Saturday for their season-high fifth straight win.

Steele allowed five hits, struck out four and walked one in his first start since May 31. The left-hander had been sidelined by a strained forearm.

“I was just kind of starting to drive myself nuts,” he said, “like not being able to get out there and help the team. There was many days I would find myself just pacing around, especially during the game, like not knowing what to do and stuff.”

Nico Hoerner, who had two hits and two RBIs, called Steele’s return “super impressive.”

“That’s probably the most important part of that day for us,” he said. “He’s a huge part of our success.”

After collecting 38 runs and 51 hits in the first four games of the win streak, Chicago managed just four hits against Kyle Gibson (8-4) and two relievers. But Mike Tauchman delivered a tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the fifth, and the Cubs held on.

After Steele (7-2) departed, Julian Merryweather got three outs and Mark Leiter Jr. worked two innings. Adbert Alzolay closed it out for his fourth save.

The bullpen is “nails right now,” Steele said. “Adbert’s really coming into his own out there.”

There was a delay in the ninth when the umpires huddled to confirm the count on Austin Hays’ walk. But Alzolay then retired Adley Rutschman on a grounder to second for the final out.

“Just a frustrating game offensively,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said.

Baltimore put runners on first and second with one out in the seventh, but Anthony Santander struck out looking and Gunnar Henderson bounced to second. Ryan O’Hearn flied out to the wall in center for the final out of the eighth.

Rutschman hit a two-run homer, and Hays had two of the team’s seven hits. Gibson struck out seven and walked two in six innings.

“Just felt like my delivery was really, really in a good spot,” Gibson said, “and arm-side, glove-side was able to really execute some pitches today.”

Chicago grabbed a 2-0 lead in the third. With two out and runners on first and second, Hoerner lined a two-run double into the gap in left-center for the team’s first hit of the game.

Hoerner also hit a bloop double in the eighth. He is batting .364 (12 for 33) with seven RBIs in his last eight games.

Baltimore responded with a two-out rally in the fifth.

Hays singled ahead of Rutschman’s 10th homer, a 406-foot drive to the bleachers in left that tied it at 2. It was the first homer off Steele since April 14, ending his majors-best string of 53 innings without allowing a long ball.

WORTH NOTING

Baltimore recalled right-hander Spenser Watkins from Triple-A Norfolk. Watkins replaces Reed Garrett, a right-handed reliever who was sent down after Friday’s game.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Orioles: C James McCann is day to day after he turned an ankle when he reached on an infield single in the second. He was replaced by a pinch hitter in the sixth. … 1B Ryan Mountcastle (vertigo) had a positive batting practice session on Friday, according to Hyde. Mountcastle planned to hit again on Saturday. “Really just taking it day to day with him right now,” Hyde said. … OF Cedric Mullins (right groin strain) is working through a running progression in Florida. Hyde said he doesn’t have a definitive timeline for Mullins’ return.

Cubs: INF Patrick Wisdom was placed on the 10-day injured list with a right wrist sprain. Manager David Ross said Wisdom has been dealing with the issue for about two weeks. But he aggravated the injury when he tried to make a diving catch in the series opener. … INF Edwin Ríos (left groin strain) was reinstated from the 10-day IL and optioned to Triple-A Iowa.

UP NEXT

Right-handers Dean Kremer (7-3, 4.74 ERA) and Jameson Taillon (2-4, 6.70 ERA) start the series finale on Sunday. Kremer pitched six effective innings in Baltimore’s 11-6 victory over Toronto on Tuesday night. Taillon is 2-1 with a 4.24 ERA in three June starts for Chicago.

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