Kirk Nieuwenhuis exited from an 0-18 slump with two homers, four RBI, and a 3-3 night with a walk to lead the offense, and Zach Davies DID befuddle the Cubs for 6.1 innings as the Brewers evened their series at one game a piece.
John Lackey started for the Cubs and was behind in the bottom of the first. Jonathon Lucroy capped a twelve pitch at bat with a two run homer to leftcenter, putting the Brewers up 2-0. Luc could have been awarded first when his bat tipped catcher Wilson Contreras glove (oddly reminiscent of his phantom foul tip before a homer in Pittsburgh), but it was missed and Luc fouled off several pitches before driving home Ryan Braun.
Zach Davies was in total control throughout tonight. He pitched around a two out double by Anthony Rizzo in the first, a two walk second, and a two out single in the third. Zach exited with a 3-0 lead in the top of the sixth with one out and one on, having allowed no runs (up to then) on three hits, two walks, and three strikeouts. Will Smith relieved and allowed consecutive singles to Jason Hayward and Addison Russell to put an earnie on Davies’ stat chart, but retired the final two of the inning to squelch the threat.
The Brewers’ offense was then totally reliant on Capt. Kirk. He singled leading off the third but was doubled off when Ramon Flores lined to third with Nieuwenhuis running for a DP; then homered off of Lackey to push the Brewers lead to 3-0 in the fourth, and walked with two down in the sixth. He was thrown out stealing to end that inning.
Milwaukee missed a run in the bottom of the seventh after Hernan Perez doubled deep to left center to lead off the inning, Ramon Flores was hit by a pitch trying to bunt, and pinch hitter Jake Elmore sac bunted them to second and third. With Jonathan Villar at the plate reliever Adam Warren threw one to the backstop and Perez was called out at the plate. Despite clear and convincing evidence that Hernan was safe the call was upheld. Villar struck out, and the inning was over.
Tyler Thornburg powered through Dexter Fowler (K), Kris Bryant (foul out), and Anthony Rizzo (fly to center) in the top of the eighth. With one down in the bottom half of the inning, Braun collected his second hit of the night with a single to right, and Warren walked Luc on four pitches, looking like he wanted no part of him. After falling behind Chris Carter 3-0 Warren came back to get the slumping slugger to fly to shallow center for the second out.
Erstwhile slumper Nieuwenhuis was left in to hit against the Cubs latest acquisition, lefty reliever Mike Montgomery, and worked the count to 3-2. Montgomery tried to work the outside corner with a fastball and Capt. Kirk lined it just inside the leftfield foul pole for a three run homer and a 6-1 lead, and a great feeling of relaxation in the Brewers’ dugout, the Brewer fans in attendance (there were quite a few in the sellout crowd), and me.
Jeremy Jeffress quickly sat down, and rubber armed Carlos Torres threw a couple of warm up tosses before retiring the Cubs in the ninth.
Tomorrow afternoon the Cubs (58-38) send Jon Lester (10-4, 2.89) to the hill to face Brewers’ (41-54) ace Junior Guerra (6-2, 3.06) in the rubber match of the three game set.
(Chris Sale is available, but will need a new uniform.)