For a Cubs team looking to salvage any chance of playing meaningful baseball in the second half, the loss of Justin Steele could prove disastrous. But that fear is very much a thing after the left-hander was pulled after three perfect innings and just 29 pitches on Wednesday afternoon.
Steele has been one of the most effective starting pitchers in all of Major League Baseball to this point in 2023, carrying a 2.65 ERA after his premature departure against the Rays. He and Marcus Stroman have teamed up to give the Cubs one of the best one-two punches in the league. Losing him for any significant period of time could be a death blow for a team that entered Wednesday with just a 16.5 percent chance to make the postseason, per Fangraphs.
If the Cubs continue to falter, the front office could find itself as sellers for a third consecutive summer - something that would undoubtedly go over like a lead balloon with a fanbase that's endured multiple rebuilds in the last decade and had hopes of October baseball returning to Wrigley heading into 2023.
Let's hope it was an illness or maybe just a cramp that led to Steele hitting the showers early because I don't see a path forward for this team without him in the rotation. I mean, even with his All-Star-caliber contributions, Chicago is hanging by a thread heading into June. Here's to hoping.