HR: Castillo (1)
"Strong wind blowing out to right field" is never a phrase a pitcher wants to hear as they prepare for a game at Wrigley Field, especially a pitcher prone to home runs like Marco Estrada. In the face of a five-game losing streak and that blustery wind, Estrada pitched a gem for the Brewers today and the Brewers should have coasted to an easy win, but that would be too easy. The bullpen had to get involved and make it interesting, but ultimately the Brewers were able to lock up a win and Jim Henderson collected his first save of the season.
Estrada became the first Brewers starting pitcher to get through seven innings this season and only gave up two runs. Estrada struck out six batters, while only walking one and giving up a single home run to Wellington Castillo. Enough cannot be said about the outing Estrada had today. On a day when a pitcher susceptible to home runs should have faltered, Estrada came out and pitched seven strong innings to guide the Brewers to their first win in the last week.
Estrada did not do it by himself though as he received plenty of help from the Brewers offense. In fact, he received a majority of that support before he even stepped on the mound.
The Brewers started off strong by putting up four runs in the first inning due to some smart baserunning from Norichika Aoki and a very strong wind blowing out to right field. With runners on first and third after singles from Aoki and Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks grounded to Cubs third baseman Luis Valbuena, who alertly threw home to catch Aoki trying to score from third on the play. A rundown ensued and it looked as though the Brewers had again cost themselves a run on the basepaths with overaggressive baserunning, but this was not the case. Without Aoki's break to home plate, Valbuena likely would have turned an inning-ending double play and ended the inning. Instead, Jonathan Lucroy walked and Martin Maldonado cleared the bases with a weakly-hit double to right field to give the Brewers a four run lead. Maldonado's double was a byproduct of the strong wind. Off the bat, it looked as though Cubs right fielder Nate Schierholtz would catch the fly ball with ease, but it just kept carrying over his head due to the wind.
The top of the second inning featured doubles from both Aoki and Braun that gave the Brewers another run and gave the Brewers a 5-0 lead. It's hard to believe, but having your best hitter and perennial MVP candidate in the lineup actually helps your offense.
Besides Castillo's home run in the bottom of the second, the Brewers were able to avoid any trouble until the ninth inning. Brandon Kintzler entered the ninth for the Brewers with a five run lead and promptly gave up a run on three consecutive singles to Alfonso Soriano, Schierholtz, and Castillo.
With runners on first and second, the Brewers turned to new closer Jim Henderson to shut the door. Henderson immediately gave up a single to Valbuena that scored Schierholtz from second base. Henderson seemed to settle down a bit as he struck out the next batter, Steve Clevenger, and followed that up by getting Scott Hairston to roll over a slider to catcher turned first baseman Martin Maldonado. Unfortunately, Maldonado is a catcher playing first base and was unable to properly field the ball, allowing the Cubs to load the bases. Henderson was able to find his way out of the jam by striking out Dave Sappelt and getting Starlin Castro to fly out to right field on a ball that would have certainly been a home run just two innings earlier if the wind hadn't changed directions in the 8th inning.
The Brewers will look to start their first winning streak of the season tomorrow as Wily Peralta faces Travis Wood at 7:05 p.m. Peralta will look to bounce back after a rough first start, while Wood will look to shut down the Brewers offense after allowing only one hit in six scoreless innings in his first start against the Pirates.