WP: Wade Miley (4-2); LP: Jon Lester (15-6); Save: Jeremy Jeffress (11); Homeruns: none
The Official within-a-game-of-first Box Score!
The Milwaukee Brewers (83-62) made enough mistakes on the bases tonight to lose game one of their crucial three game set with the Chicago Cubs (83-60) tonight at Wrigley Field, but the key ingredient from their good season didn’t allow that to happen. The Brewers’ bullpen once again dominated an opponent - and a good opponent at that - and the Crew held on for a 3-2 win.
Brewers’ starter Wade Miley wasn’t nearly as sharp on the mound as he has been recently, but he held the Cubs to two runs over five innings. He fell behind a lot of hitters but ended up walking only two, allowing four hits and striking out one. Miley didn’t help his own cause in the bottom of the first. Staked to a 1-0 lead, Wade was a bit unlucky as second hitter Kris Bryant pulled a groundball towards Mike Moustakas at third that came up and glanced off of Moose’s wrist and down the line for a double. Miley’s pick-off throw on Bryant was way high, sending him to third on the error. Anthony Rizzo grounded to Jesus Aguilar and Zeus had a hankering to throw home, but took the out at first instead. A walk and base hit made the run earned, and it was 1-1.
Milwaukee had scored first in the top of the initial frame on a sac fly from Jonathan Schoop. He came up for the third time in a row with the bases loaded and got Brewer fans excited again on a deep drive to left, but Bryant caught it on the track. It drove home Lorenzo Cain, who had the first of his four singles leading off the game, took second on Christian Yelich’s ground single to right, and took third on a one out walk to Ryan Braun. The Brewers had their first tootblan then, with Yelich and Braun taking off against Chicago ace Jon Lester for a double steal. But Yelich pulled up while Braun kept going, and Yeli was retired in a rundown to end the inning.
The top of the second had Milwaukee being aggressive at the plate and swinging early in the count. Moustakas doubled high off the wall in center, narrowly missing a homer, and Erik Kratz followed up with a towering flyball that looked headed for the seats, but with the wind blowing in Bryant caught it right up against the wall. Moose tagged and barely beat Bryant’s throw to third. Lester had a way out of the inning with Orlando Arcia and Wade Miley up next, but Lando lined a single to left to retake the lead 2-1.
Miley settled in and retired eight in a row until a one out hit by Ben Zobrist in the fourth, but Zobrist was erased in a nicely turned double play by Albert Almora. The ball wasn’t hit hard but Moustakas was playing up, and his throw to Schoop was true, and Schoop had a very quick turn and powerful throw to nip the speed Almora and end the inning.
Miley ran into trouble in the bottom of the fifth. Willson Contreras pulled a hot grounder just out of the reach of Arcia and into left-center, and hustled all the way to second for a lead-off double. Lester drilled a drive into right center that looked very dangerous, but Cain ran it down. Contreras tagged and took third. Wade suddenly started spiking sliders and cutters and walked the next two to load the bases, with Kris Bryant up. His flyball to left got the crowd excited, but it was only medium deep - but deep enough to score Contreras. Rizzo pulled a hard grounder into right field, but the shifted Schoop back-handed the ball and easily threw out Anthony at first, ending the inning and Miley’s night.
Through four innings, Miley faced fifteen batters and twelve of them hit the ball on the ground. The Cubs started getting the ball in the air in the fifth, so it was a good time for Wade to take a shower. I don’t think he did - he was still at the rail of the dugout late in the game.
With the game knotted at two, Milwaukee again answered immediately. Well, almost - they had two down and nobody on in the sixth, but the Cubs were concerned with Lester’s health. Turned out he had a lower back strain; maybe on a swing in his at bat on a cutter from Miley moving down and away. I thought he grimaced because he swung at a ball on a 2-1 count, but upon further reflection, perhaps not. Anyhoo, he stayed in and Moustakas singled to center, followed by a Kratz double down the rightfield line. Eddie Seder was windmilling Moose around third but he wisely looked for himself, saw he’s be out from Wrigley to Miller Park, put on the brakes, and left things up to Arcia.
The Cubs at that point decided Lester was too injured to continue and brought in righty Carl Edwards. Edwards got as long to warm up as he wanted, but seemed to not take long enough. His first pitch to Lando was a slider that was in the dirt and so far outside that Contreras had no chance of knocking it down, and Moose scored standing up for a 3-2 lead. Edwards walked Arcia on four pitches, none of which were close enough for Carl to whine about. Then he found his control suddenly and struck out pinch hitter Curtis Granderson to end the inning - but not before he allowed Arcia to steal second without even delivering a pitch. He did step off as Lando cruised into second.
The Brewers had baserunners in the following three innings but a double play ended the seventh, two were left in the eighth, and a one out, two on ninth was short circuited when a ho-hum throw to second by Brandon Kintzler somehow retired Domingo Santana for a pick-off. Cubs’ second sacker David Murphy stuck his foot in front of the bag, and Sunday obligingly slid right into it and sat there as Murph caught the toss and leisurely tagged Santana out.
But none of that mattered. I mean, it’s always tense when it’s just a one-run lead, but the bullpen was on its game tonight Corbin Burnes had the sixth and allowed a two out hit but nothing else.
Then it got downright embarrassing for the Cubs. Josh Hader got the seventh and eighth and struck out all six batters that he faced. In his second inning he blew away Bryant and Rizzo for the first two outs, then froze Javy Baez on a fastball on the inner part of the plate for a called strike three.
Hader threw 24 pitches and had 19 strikes. Yowzers.
Jeremy Jeffress earned his eleventh save in the ninth, but there was a bit more angst there. With two down JJ walked Contreras, and Joe Maddon pinch ran The Flash (aka Terrence Gore), who waited a few pitches before taking second base. Jeremy and pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella had a spirited battle with La Stella fouling off a few curveballs before striking out on a down and in curve to end the ol’ ballgame. Hader and Jeffress combined to get eight of the last nine outs via the strikeout.
So here the Crew is, a game out of first with seventeen to go, and two more tomorrow and Wednesday night at Wrigley. Tomorrow night’s contest will pit Jhoulys Chacin (14-6, 3.59) against Jose Quintana (12-9, 4.14), who seems to be contractually required to face the Brewers every series. The Cards had a comeback win over the Pirates tonight, so they remain 2.5 games behind Milwaukee in the Wild Card standings, but now just 3.5 back of the Cubs. The Rockies pummeled the moribund D’Backs and the Dodgers were beaten by the Reds, so Colorado extends their lead in the West while Arizona and Los Angeles fall back in the Wild Card.
- The Brewers didn’t seem to try and rattle Lester on the bases like they did last season. I expected that they’d try and run, and there were opportunities, but they didn’t have a steal until Arcia with Edwards ignoring him in the sixth.
- The Brewers had a very odd defensive set against Contreras in the fifth. With runners at first and second and two down, Schoop was playing the right-handed hitter like a lefty, well back on the outfield grass in right. Willson drilled a liner on a hop to Jonathan, and was thrown out to end the inning.
- Bill Schroeder had a good observation in the bottom of the seventh when Corbin Burnes went out for a second inning, but just as a straw man. When Kyle Schwarber was announced as the pinch hitter for Jesse Chavez, Craig Counsell brought in Hader. Maddon went with David Bode. Since Hader was sure to be coming in, Rock said that switch hitter Ian Happ was a better pinch hitter, and they could save Schwarber. I don’t know if Schwarber would have been used in the ninth, but having that option would have been better than not having it. Kudos to Rock.
- Besides Cain’s four hits, Moustakas had two hits and a walk and scored twice, and Kratz had two hits himself.