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Christian Yelich, Brewers walk off Cubs, 4-3

The Cream City Nine erases an 8th inning deficit by scoring runs in each of the final two innings

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee Brewers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

WP: Jeremy Jeffress (8-1); LP: Steve Cishek, (4-3); Save: none ; Homeruns: Chi - Anthony Rizzo (24); Mil - none

A Standings Tightening Box Score

The Milwaukee Brewers (78-61) walked off the Chicago Cubs (81-56) 4-3 in a tension-packed opener to the crucial three game set started today at Miller Park. The win pulls the Crew within four of Chicago, and with the Cards blowing another one (this one to the Nationals), Milwaukee holds a 1.5 game lead for the top Wild Card spot.

The Brewers had tied the game with a run in the bottom of the 8th, and their 9th inning rally scored the winner without a hit. Cishek walked Erik Kratz on four pitches to open the frame, and Keon Broxton pinch ran. Orlando Arcia tried to bunt Keon over but was hit by a pitch to put two on with nobody out, and Curtis Granderson tried to bunt the runners over but went foul with two straight. He pulled the bat back on his next attempt, but Willson Contreras muffed the pitch and both runners advanced. Granny fanned on a high fastball for the first out.

Lorenzo Cain had a chance to be the hero, but Cishek hit him as well on a 2-0 pitch, loading the bases setting the stage for freshly re-minted NL Player of the Week Christian Yelich. Yelich has been winning games for the Brewers with his bat and glove, but this time he won it with his legs. Against a five man, pulled in infield Yeli first brought the crowd to its feet with a long, loud foul before drilling a one-hop shot to third that Kris Bryant stopped with a dive. Rather than going home for the force, Bryant took two steps to third for the second out force before firing across the diamond for the double play - but Yelich beat the throw, and Keon Broxton had scored the winning run. Celebration ensued.

So the winning run came on a walk, two hit batters, and a fielder’s choice. Small ball!

Both starting pitchers were on for the two NL Central leaders. Zach Davies made his first start in over three months for the Brewers and gave up one run in five innings on four hits, a walk, and seven strikeouts. The Cubs run in the first was courtesy of the electric Baez, who singled with one down and came all the way around to score when Lorenzo Cain dropped Rizzo’s single into center after he caught it and started his throw. Baez would have been out at the plate but Jonathan Schoop’s relay throw was very high. The run became earned when Kris Bryant flew out to center deeply enough to have been a sac fly.

Cole Hamels continued to pay big dividends for Chicago after his deadline acquisition from Texas with six good innings. He shut out Milwaukee for four innings before Arcia lined a one out single to left in the fifth. Domingo Santana struck out, but with Cain up Arcia took off on a pick-off attempt and was safe when Daniel Murphy mishandled the throw from Rizzo for an error. Cain pulled a single into left to score Lando and tie the game, and Yelich lined a single to right to score Cain, who had taken second on an ill-advised throw to the plate by Kyle Schwarber and third on a steal. Yeli was thrown out trying for a double to end the inning, but the Brewers held a 2-1 lead.

Josh Hader took over for Davies in the sixth and was really, really good against the Cubs for 2.2 innings — until his last pitch. Cubs slugger Anthony Rizzo launched a two run homer on an inside fastball in the top of the 8th that carried into the Toyota Territory, and carried the Cubs to a 3-2 lead.

Rizzo’s homer ruined Hader’s outing after the lefty had retired the first six he had faced in the sixth and seventh on just 18 pitches. He walked Ian Happ to start the eighth, but struck out Daniel Murphy and Javier Baez before the Rizzo homer. Corey Knebel retired Kris Bryant on a fly to right to end the frame.

The Crew tied things up in the bottom of the inning as the Cubs went ballistic with homeplate ump Gabe Morales. With Carl Edwards on for Chicago, Granderson continued to get on base for Milwaukee with a lead-off pinch single over the rover in the shift. Cain punched a single to right to put two on with nobody down, but Yelich and Jesus Aguilar struck out. Ryan Braun worked the count to 3-1 but fouled off a fastball to run the count full. Edwards went with a 3-2 curve that came in high. Edwards was convinced it was a strike and yelled at Morales, as did the dugout, but the bags were loaded.

With no lefty warming up, Mike Moustakas pinch hit for Hernan Perez. Edwards missed inside for ball one, and then again (by quite a bit) on ball two. At that point Maddon went ballistic from the dugout. He stood at the top of the dugout steps screaming that “you missed two”. After giving Maddon a few freebies, Morales tossed him and then Joe came out and was clearly saying “Do your job!” Which, of course, Morales was. Maddon continued his tirade for a few minutes while Edwards stewed on the mound, and when play resumed Carl finished off his four pitch walk to drive in the tying run. Edwards was then relieved by Steve Cishek, who retired pinch hitter Travis Shaw on a sharp grounder to first.

Jeremy Jeffress had the 9th for Milwaukee and gave up a two out single to Victor Caratini and stolen base to pinch runner Terrence Cole, but Ben Zobrist flew out to medium deep center to end the inning and set the stage for the bottom of the ninth dramatics.

Milwaukee goes for a series win (and honestly, they need a sweep to be relevant in the chase for the NL Central title) tomorrow night. The Cubs go with their second straight left-handed starter, Mike Montgomery (4-4, 3.82), and Brewers’ lefty Wade Miley (2-2, 2.18) looks to continue his fine season.

Game Notes:

  • Whew. I was lamenting another heart-breaking loss to the Cubs after Rizzo’s dinger. I mean, I was really down. I’m feeling much better, thanks.
  • If that throw to second that Murphy misplayed was an error, and not a stolen base, then it would have been the third out and both runs should have been unearned. They currently show up as earned. (Edit: apparently a balk was called on Hamels, so there was no error and both runs were earned.)
  • Braun made a great play on a liner by Murphy with one down and nobody on in the fifth.

  • Jesus Aguilar almost got caught not running on the bases again. His first inning drive to center barely missed being caught, and barely missed going out, bouncing off of Ian Happ’s glove and off the top of the wall, but Aguilar was trotting and barely made it into second safely. Run ‘em all out, Zeus.
  • Corey Knebel got a crucial out. Baby steps.