Earned runs or error? Chicago Cubs’ 11-5 loss to Boston Red Sox kicked off with controversial scoring call

17 July 2023

It’s been a memorable week for left-hander Justin Steele, but Sunday was a day he, infielder Nico Hoerner and the rest of the Chicago Cubs would like to forget as quickly as possible.

Steele, making his first start since throwing a scoreless inning in Tuesday’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game, allowed 10 hits in six innings and was — somewhat controversially — charged with six earned runs as the Cubs were routed 11-5 by the Boston Red Sox at Wrigley Field.

“I felt pretty good, as far as all my stuff goes,” Steele said. “I threw some good sinkers, some good sliders. The pitch (Rafael) Devers hit out was a pretty well-executed slider low and away and he just put a good swing on it. The double he hit, I did exactly what I was trying to do with a sinker in on his hands and he was able to get it down the third-base line.

“Sometimes you have to tip your cap.”

The Red Sox (50-44) scored five runs in the fifth, a surge that started when Connor Wong hit a hopper that deflected off Hoerner’s glove and into left field for what was ruled a double.

Boston followed with three more hits in a row, but Steele was on the verge of escaping with only one run allowed after striking out Devers and getting Adam Duvall to foul out with the bases loaded.

However, Steele fell behind Masataka Yoshida, who crushed a 2-0 pitch for a grand slam to give the Red Sox a 6-0 lead.

“It was bases loaded with a 2-0 count and I was trying to get him to roll over a ground ball,” Steele said. “The first two pitches were pretty competitive and then 2-0, I just had to throw him a strike. I didn’t want to fall behind 3-0. He did what he was supposed to do.”

Hoerner and Cubs manager David Ross agreed Wong’s hit that started it all should have been ruled an error, which would have made all five runs unearned against Steele.

“I just misplayed that ball,” Hoerner said. “Those shouldn’t be earned runs against Steele. That’s a play I make almost every time, but I didn’t make it. That’s an error. It’s about the worst feeling in baseball when you make an error that leads to runs. That was kind of a turning point in the game.”

It was a tough day for Hoerner, a typically lights-out defender who also committed just his fifth error of the season on a grounder in the fourth.

“Nico plays Gold Glove defense and I feel like he can play any position on the field,” Steele said. “That’s how much confidence I have in him.”

Ross felt Steele pitched better than the stats indicated.

“Nico makes that play (in the fifth) 99 out of 100 times,” Ross said. “You get that out and who knows where the game goes? They put together a couple hits there and obviously a long inning, then he fell behind to Yoshida and the homer. But I thought Steele threw the ball pretty good.”

The Cubs (43-49) scored five runs over the last two innings after trailing 11-0. They went hitless between Mike Tauchman’s single to lead off the first and Christopher Morel’s RBI single in the eighth and finished with five hits.

Batting leadoff, Tauchman was the lone bright spot as he reached base five times via two singles and three walks.

“As much as everybody wants to take him out of the leadoff spot, I think he’s done a pretty good job up there,” Ross said of Tauchman. “He gets the quality at-bat every single day. He plays really good defense. He’s a really good, solid baseball player.”

Steele, meanwhile, had a chance to reflect on his first All-Star Game appearance, which happened to come on his 28th birthday and his son Beau’s first birthday.

“Having my family and some close friends there to enjoy it with (was the best part),” Steele said. “Seeing them on the red carpet and just the laughs we shared and all that.”

Before Sunday’s game, the Cubs announced they agreed to contract terms with seven of their 20 picks in the 2023 MLBdraft, including infielder Matt Shaw, who they selected out of Maryland with the No. 13 overall pick in the first round.

The others are fifth-round pick Michael Carico, sixth-rounder Alfonsin Rosario, eighth-rounder Brett Bateman, ninth-rounder Jonathon Long, 10th-rounder Luis Martinez Gomez and 18th-rounder Brian Kalmer.

The team also announced it reacquired catcher P.J. Higgins in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks for cash considerations.

Higgins played in 74 games with the Cubs last season, hitting .229 with six home runs and 30 RBIs. He has spent this season entirely in Triple-A with the Reno Aces, hitting .317 with six homers and 46 RBIs.

After dropping two of three to the Red Sox in the first series after the All-Star break to start a 10-game homestand, the Cubs know the next week will go a long way toward the front office deciding what to do about the Aug. 1 trade deadline.

The Cubs fell eight games behind the Milwaukee Brewers, who sit atop the National League Central after four straight wins.

“The trade deadline is obviously a real thing,” Hoerner said. “July is a month that comes with other factors, between the break and the trade deadline. Those things can change things, but there’s no change as far as how you play and how you approach it. The attitude should be attacking and embracing it and doing it on our own terms.

“Those aren’t decisions anyone in this room gets to make, so we just want to control our end of it as best we can.”


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