WP: Jimmy Nelson (12-6); LP: John Lackey (11-11); Save: Corey Knebel (33); Homeruns: Mil - Ryan Braun (15); Chi - none
The Milwaukee Brewers moved within four games of the Chicago Cubs with a 2-0 win on a cool, windy night in the Windy City. Each game is a must win in the series, and Jimmy Nelson gave the Brewers a very good start before leaving with “a sore right arm”.
The Brewers scored both of their runs in the top of the first when Ryan Braun blasted a two run homer into deep center, a drive even more impressive with the wind blowing in with gale force all night. His dinger scored Eric Thames, who had doubled off the wall in left leading off the game.
Travis Shaw and Domingo Santana hit balls hard and deep after Braun, and both could have been gone with the wind going the other way. After that, John Lackey pitched very well, allowing just two more hits over his final six innings while hitting one and walking two (one intentional) while striking out nine. His last strikeout was of Josh Hader, who swung the bat very hard.
The Brewers managed just four hits on the night, never threatening after the first. It marks the second shutout start in a row in which a first inning homer gave him all of the runs he needed. Domingo Santana and Keon Broxton both struck out three times for Milwaukee.
After a perfect first with two strikeouts, Nelson pitched around first and third situations with two out in the second, third, and fifth innings. A double play from
Nelson left the game after jamming his shoulder diving back into first base. He drove a hanging Lackey curve ball off the left field wall with one down in the top of the fifth, but John Jay played the carom well and Jimmy put on the brakes and beat the throw back, but at what cost? He worked the bottom of the fifth, hitting Jay with two down and walking Kris Bryant while sending Jay to third with a wild pitch. Anthony Rizzo flew out to deep center, another ball that would have been out of Wrigley on some days...er, nights.
Jimmy finished with four hits allowed in his five shutout innings, walking two and with the one hit batter. He struck out seven and earned his twelfth win, lowering his ERA to 3.49.
Josh Hader took over for Nelson, and after as many warm-up pitches as he needed he worked 1-2-3 innings in the sixth and seventh, striking out two. He came out for the bottom of the seventh to face lead-off hitter Jay but walked him, and Craig Counsell went with righty Anthony Swarzak to face the meat of the Cubs order.
Swarzak caught Bryant looking on an inside fastball for out number one, and Rizzo flew out to center. Ben Zobrist pulled an inside fastball foul on the first pitch he saw, fouled an outside fastball into the seats down the leftfield line, and took a called third strike on an inside fastball to end the inning. Zobrist never saw Swarzaks slider, which probably took him by surprise.
Corey Knebel took the ninth and delivered his 33rd save, retiring the Cubs despite a two out single from Jason Heyward. The dangerous Javier Baez struck out on three pitches, and in a series that almost requires a sweep, the Brewers got game one.
Tomorrow the Brewers (73-68) send Chase Anderson (8-3, 3.06) out to face the Cubs’ (77-64) Mike Montgomery (5-7, 3.38). The Cardinals look to be keeping pace, leading the Pirates 4-1 in the eighth, and the Dodgers put a four spot on the Rockies in the first, and also lead 4-1.
Craig Counsell said that Nelson jammed his shoulder and left after saying that his arm felt “funny” after his fifth inning. Counsell didn’t think it was serious, but the team will conduct more tests tomorrow.
Edit: After the game, Jimmy said that his arm “just felt weird, not a really any pain, just kinda lose”. I don’t find that reassuring.