Frank Schwindel hit a three-run homer and a pair of Chicago Cubs pitchers combined on a two-hitter in a 3-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night.
Justin Steele (3-2) won for the first time since joining the Cubs’ rotation on Aug. 10. The rookie left-hander gave up one hit, walked three and struck out three over five innings, lowering his ERA to 3.48.
“Of all the starts I’ve had in the big leagues, tonight was the best night as far as commanding both my two-seam and my four-seam (fastball),” Steele said. “Having both of them just makes everything else better.”
Adbert Alzolay, just back from the injured list, worked the final four innings to earn his first career save. He allowed one hit and struck out five.
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“He was in control the whole time. Really under no stress,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “No walks, attacked hitters, pounded the strike zone. … They put the ball on the ground or punched out.”
Schwindel’s drive in the third was all the Cubs mustered against U.S. Olympic pitcher Joe Ryan (0-1), making his major league debut for the Twins.
Ryan retired the first six batters he faced, but ran into trouble in the third. After issuing a leadoff walk to Alfonso Rivas, Ryan fanned Sergio Alcántara before Andrew Romine doubled to put runners on second and third. Rafael Ortega flied to short center for the second out, but Schwindel launched a three-run homer to left field.
Ryan retired the Cubs in order in each of his other four innings. He allowed three hits, walked one and struck out five in five innings.
A trio of Twins relievers blanked the Cubs the rest of the way.
Ryan’s summer has been a bit of a whirlwind. He began the year in the Tampa Bay organization, but the Twins acquired him in the Nelson Cruz trade on July 22. Ryan was in Tokyo at the time, competing for Team USA in the Olympic Games. He allowed two earned runs over 10 1/3 innings in two Olympic starts, helping the United States to a sliver medal.
When he returned home, Ryan was assigned to Triple-A St. Paul, where he made two starts, striking out 17 and walking two in nine innings. Then he made the short trip across town to make his big league debut in front of a large contingent of friends and family at Target Field.
Through it all, Ryan appeared to be unflappable, as though it was just another start for him.
“I think the Olympics definitely prepared me for that, just the pressure of having a lot of adrenaline in a game again,” Ryan said. “I definitely felt that today, but I was able to control that a little bit better.”
Even when he got into trouble in the third inning, the rookie was able to diagnose the problem.
“It was just executing my pitches. I mis-executed a little bit too much in the third and got into some not-so-great counts, and was able to battle back from those a couple of times,” Ryan said. “And then, you’ve got to execute that pitch there and get the job done, whatever the plan is. But yeah, just staying on that a little bit more is the only thing that I was a little bit annoyed with myself by.
“It was amazing. It was a great experience. I loved it.”
MAEDA’S SEASON DONE
The Twins took a blow that will affect them not just the rest of this season but probably most of next year as well when right-hander Kenta Maeda had season-ending Tommy John surgery Wednesday in Dallas.
The 33-year-old right-hander from Japan was placed on the 10-day injured list Aug. 24 with right forearm tightness. Texas Rangers orthopedic surgeon Dr. Keith Meister performed the surgery.
Meister added an internal brace to the arm, a recent development in the Tommy John technique that could help speed the rate of recovery, which is traditionally at least a year. The Twins hope Maeda could return in 9-12 months.
“There are never any guarantees, but we are pretty good on the medical side with rehabbing this kind of injury and getting guys back to full health,” manager Rocco Baldelli said.
Maeda was the runner-up in AL Cy Young Award voting last season, when he went 6-1 with a 2.70 ERA in 11 starts. In 21 starts this season, he was 6-5 with a 4.66 ERA.
Cubs: INF Matt Duffy was scratched from the starting lineup due to right neck stiffness. … Alzolay and RHP Dillon Maples were activated from the 10-day injured list. Maples had been out since July 29 with a blister on his right middle finger. Alzolay went on the injured list Aug. 14 with a left hamstring strain.
Cubs: RHP Keegan Thompson (3-3, 3.09 ERA) will be on the mound Thursday at Wrigley Field as the Cubs begin a four-game series with the Pirates. Thompson entered the rotation on Aug. 21 but has pitched just six innings over two starts.
Twins: RHP Randy Dobnak (1-6, 7.83 ERA) returns to the rotation as the Twins start a three-game set at Tampa Bay on Friday. Dobnak will be making his first appearance for Minnesota since June 19. He missed the past two months with a right middle finger strain.