WP: Josh Hader (6-1); LP: Kyle Hendricks (11-11); Save: none; Homeruns: Mil - Curtis Granderson (13); Chi - none
Seven Series Wins in a Row Box Score!
The Milwaukee Brewers (84-63) rode a great night from late-season acquisition Curtis Granderson to a 5-1 win over the Chicago Cubs (84-61) to pull back within a game of first in the NL Central. Granderson had a single, triple, and homer, was hit by a pitch, and scored three times. His homerun leading off the top of the ninth finally gave the team some breathing room, and he had a nice running catch in right center to prevent a run.
The Dodgers beat the Reds for the first time this season, but the Cardinals, D’Backs (who blew another ninth inning lead, this time to the Rockies), and Phillies all lost to extend Milwaukee’s lead in the Wild Card race. The Cards hold the second slot, 2.5 games behind of the Brewers.
That leaves LA 4.5 behind the Brewers, and the D’Backs 6.5 back. The Phillies would no longer seem to be a threat, and their path to the play-offs is very tough with three teams ahead of them. They now trail the Brewers by 9 games.
The Brewers got off to a good start in the first when it looked like Curtis Granderson led off the game with a homerun off of Cubs’ starter Kyle Hendricks, but his drive to left center bounced off of the top of the railing on the basket, came down on the top of the railing again, and dropped back onto the field of play. Second base umpire Gary Cederstrom immediately signaled that the ball was in play but everyone else thought it was a homer, except for third base coach Eddie Seder, who stopped Grandy at third.
The umps got together and called it a homer so that they could go review it, and sent Granderson back to third. After Christian Yelich popped out Lorenzo Cain singled to center to score Granderson. Albert Almora let the ball get past him in center, and Cain went all the way to third. With an RBI sitting there Hendricks fanned Travis Shaw on a change-up and retired Mike Moustakas on a bouncer to short.
Milwaukee starter Chase Anderson struggled all night, with a one out walk in the first and two walks and a single in the second. Javy Baez led off the second with a walk, but Manny Pina gunned him down trying to steal, and it wasn’t close. That meant the two out walk and single (by Hendricks on a grooved 1-0 fastball) didn’t result in runs when Addison Russell lined out to right.
The top of the third had a three pitch strikeout of Anderson, then three straight singles from Granderson, Yelich, and Cain, bringing up Shaw with the sacks full and one down. This time the Mayor lined out to center with two strikes for a sac fly and RBI, putting the Crew up 2-0.
Anderson was stepping off constantly, whether in discomfort or in disagreement with battery mate Manny Pina. He gave up a base hit to Kris Bryant between strikeouts of Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rizzo, then retired Ben Zobrist on a liner to right center that Granderson ran down in the gap. Baez lined to center leading off the bottom of the fourth, and Chase completed his best inning of the night with strikeouts of Almora and Willson Contreras. But his best inning of the night wasn’t enough to keep Chase in the game, even with a 2-0 lead after four. That’s a combination of how important this game was to the Brewers and a very deep bullpen. September baseball.
Tyler Saladino pinch hit for Anderson to lead off the sixth, and struck out on three pitches, mirroring Chase’s at bat in the third. Granderson was hit by a pitch, and Yelich hit a soft liner to center that Almora made a nice sliding catch on. Cain bounced into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.
The bottom of the fifth had Jacob Barnes on the mound, and Tommy La Stella pinch-hit for Hendricks to lead off the inning. His grounder to second had Shaw back on the shift, and he charged and had a play, but Hernan Perez, shifted up the middle from shortstop, inexplicably sprinted over, cut the ball off right in front Shaw, and continued his sprint into short right while throwing the ball into the Brewers’ dugout to send La Stella to second.
Addison Russell’s slow roller to second was an out, with La Stella taking third. That was it for Barnes, who wasn’t happy being taken out. I have no problem with that; he had pitched well but was unlucky. Corey Knebel came in to close out the inning and retired Daniel Murphy on a pop-up, but with two strikes on Bryant his fastball was down instead of up, and Kris drilled a liner deep into left center, and it hit the bottom of the basket, narrowly missing a dinger. It scored La Stella to halve the lead, but Rizzo’s chopper over the mound was an easy play for Perez to end the inning.
I wondered at the time if Knebel was available in the fifth, why didn’t he start the inning. But Barnes pitched well; the run was earned (La Stella was given a hit and an error), but rather unfortunate. 2-1 Brewers.
Lefty Randy Rosario took over for Hendricks, and with one down in the top of the sixth Almora robbed Moustakas of extra bases on a diving catch in the left-centerfield gap. That was two excellent plays in consecutive innings. Perez topped a roller down the third base line, and Baez, instead of eating it as Perez was safe easily, threw it away down the first base line, and Perez made it all the way to third for the Cubs second two base error of the inning. Despite going all out when he relieved Anderson after two, Craig Counsell didn’t pinch-hit for Eric Thames against a lefty and go for an insurance run. Thames struck out.
Knebel was back out for the bottom of the sixth and had a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts.
The Brewers failed to score in the top of the seventh after a lead-off pinch double by Domingo Santana and a two out walk for Christian Yelich. Lo Cain lined one to right center that Zobrist tracked down.
Joakim Soria hasn’t been pitching well lately, but he got out of the bottom of the seventh with just a two out single allowed.
Once again Milwaukee stranded two in the top of the eighth. Travis Shaw walked to lead off the inning against Carl Edwards, and was replaced at first when Baez allowed Moustakas’ infield pop to fall for some reason, then easily forcing Shaw at second. Perez took a curve for strike three and two down, but Thames pulled a single down the rightfield line to put runners at the corners. (Remember when I wanted Eric pinch hit for?) Joe Maddon went with side-armer Steve Cishek to face Manny Pina. Counsell countered with Jesus Aguilar, a tough match-up for Zeus, and he struck out on a 3-2 curve. Still 2-1.
Josh Hader took the eighth, and was dominating again. He struck out Bryant and Rizzo swinging without a foul ball, and touched 98 on the radar gun - the fastest I recall seeing this season. Ben Zobrist punched a high fastball with two strikes for a base hit to center (a rather good job of hitting, I’d say), but Baez went down on strikes too.
The Brewers finally broke through in the ninth for their first breathing room of the series. Granderson completed his most excellent game with one out, driving a homer into the first row in left center and extending the lead to 3-1. He was about an eighth of an inch away from a two homer game.
That was it for Cishek, and Brandon Kintzler came on in to face Yelich. His first pitch hit Yeli in the back of the leg. Yeli wasn’t very happy, but got his revenge by scoring. Yelich stole second (his second steal), and Cain lined a single to right. Yelich had to hold to make sure it got through, so only made third. With Travis Shaw up Cain stole second, and Kintzler walked the Mayor. Lefty Brian Duensing came on to face Moustakas, and Moose bounced a base hit into left just out of the reach of a diving Baez, scoring two huge insurance runs. Suddenly it was 5-1, and we could breath easier.
Jeremy Jeffress was up and warm, and Thursday is an off day, so he came on for the ninth. He relied mostly on his at-em ball, as Almora lined right to Moustakas for the first out, and after a called strike three to Contreras (he complained, but it was a strike), Victor Caratini hit one hard that Orlando Arcia flagged down to end the game.
As mentioned, tomorrow is an off day for the Crew. The Cubs have that make-up game against the Nats in D.C. Scheduled pitchers for the first game in the Pirates/Brewers series Friday night are Chris Archer (4-7, 4.56) for the Bucs, facing lefty Gio Gonzalez (1-0 for the Brewers, 8-11, 4.40 on the season) for the Crew.
- The announcing crew were effusive in their praise of Craig Counsell for how he handled the game. I had my nits to pick, but when the players produce you look smart, and I was in favor of removing Anderson despite four shut-out innings. That was well out of the norm for CC, and worked.
- The top three hitters in the Brewers’ line-up tormented the Cubs tonight. Granderson (3-4, three runs, an RBI, and a HBP), Christian Yelich (1-3, a walk, a HBP, two steals, and a run), and Lo Cain (3-5, a run, an RBI, and a steal) were awesome. I’ll do the math for you: that’s 7 for 12 with a walk, two HBP, five runs, and two batted in. Acceptable.
- The broadcast included a highlight of a homer earlier this season by Eric Thames against the Cubs, and the highlight of the highlight was who Thames drove in: it was Josh Hader!
- Granderson’s triple and Bryant’s double narrowly missed being the first homers in the three game set, so Grandy’s round tripper was the only one that was hit. Huh.
- That’s the Cubs first series loss at Wrigley since late May.
- Glad I looked: the official scorer gave the win to Josh Hader. That’s his decision; when the starter doesn’t go five innings - he can choose to give it to the reliever that he deems most effective. I had Corey Knebel down for his third win of the season. BTW, Hader faced ten batters in the series and struck out nine of them.