Junior Guerra had another fine start in a sweltering Miller Park Sunday afternoon, as he battled the Cubs, his control, a tight strike zone, and some shoddy defense to go 6.1 innings allowing five hits, four walks, striking out two, inducing two double plays, and giving up one unearned run. Will Smith couldn’t hold the Cubs, though, and they broke through for a huge seventh inning to win the series from Milwaukee.
Guerra retired Javier Baez on a flyball to left to begin the seventh, but Craig Counsell went with Smith when Miguel Montero pinch hit for David Ross. Montero singled, Jake Elmore kicked Matt Szczur’s double play grounder, Tommy La Stella doubled into the rightfield corner, and Kris Bryant walked to load the bases.
Smith got ahead of Anthony Rizzo 1-2, but hung a 2-2 slider and Rizzo doubled into rightcenter to clear the bases, giving the Cubs a 5-4 lead. Tyler Thornburg replaced Smith (TVF) and gave up an RBI single to Ben Zobrist before getting a strike-em out/throw-em out double play with Wilson Contreras fanning and Zobrist caught at second. It was the second time that Lucroy and Gennett combined to catch Zobrist; he was called safe on the first but overturned on replay, and out on the second upheld on replay. Luc also gunned down Szczur in the ninth, erasing all three theft attempts in the game. The Brewers stole six of seven, with Villar, Perez, and Braun all getting two.
The Cubs had scored their first run in the sixth, unearned because Gennett booted a double play grounder before Zobrist singled in Bryant.
The Brewers made Cubs’ starter Jon Lester work very hard in his five plus innings, scoring all four runs on five hits and five walks, reaching base twice on strikeouts, and stealing five bases. He left with the bases loaded and nobody out in the fifth, having thrown 100 pitches. Scooter Gennett’s chopper bounced over Bryant, scoring Hernan Perez and Ryan Braun, off of lefty Clayton Richard.
The first two runs scored in the first when Jonathan Villar walked, stole second and third, and came in on Hernan Perez’ sacrifice fly. Chris Carter’s broken bat single to left drove in Ryan Braun, who had singled and stolen second, going to third on an infield single by Lucroy.
Braun, Lucroy, and Chris Carter combined to strike out four times in the fifth and sixth innings, and combined to leave nine on base in that stretch - eight of them in scoring position. You hope for a bit more production in run scoring situations than that.
Joe Nathan pitched the bottom of the sixth for the Cubs, the 41 year olds' first major league appearance since April of 2015 for the Tigers. Villar tripled to lead off the inning, and Perez walked and stole second. That led to the final three at bats mentioned above...he fanned Braun, Lucroy, and Carter. He was the pitcher of record when the Cubs took the lead in the top of the seventh, so is 1-0. Nice story...I guess.
With Travis Wood pitching in the bottom of the seventh the Brewers put runners on second and third with one down after a four pitch walk to Kirk Nieuwenhuis and a double off the chalk down the rightfield line from Elmore.. Andy Wilkins struck out after a ten pitch at bat, and Villar flew out to left to end the threat. That bumped the Brewers’ total to 12 left on base.
Pedro Strop retired the side in order in the eighth, and Hector Rendon notched his 18th save despite allowing a two out homer to sudden slugger Nieuwenhuis in the ninth. The Brewers struck out 14 times, solidifying their major league lead in that category.
Will Middlebrooks left with either cramps or a calf strain after popping out to end the third, and the Cubs’ Addison Russell left between the top and bottom half of the fourth with cramps in his calf.
The Arizona D’Backs come into Miller Park for four games starting Monday night. The D’Backs (47-51) will send Patrick Corbin (4-9, 5.23) against Chase Anderson (4-10, 5.50). Sounds fair.
The Brewers will miss facing Zack Greinke, who is on the disabled list.
If anyone was paying attention, I got the daily quiz right today.