Corbin Burnes is probably the most-hyped among the trio of young Brewers pitchers competing for initial out-getter spots this spring, but he was having the worst Cactus League showing statistically when he stepped on the mound this afternoon to face off against the Cubs. He promptly yielded a first inning run when he allowed consecutive two-out hits, including an RBI double by Willson Contreras.
Burnes ran into more trouble in the third inning, though a good chunk of his final line is owed to defensive miscues behind him. Two of the first three batters in the inning recorded base hits to center field, putting runners on first and third. An error by Orlando Arcia off the bat of Ian Happ allowed the Cubs’ second run to score. Burnes struck out David Bote for the second out, but then plunked Contreras to load the bases for Cristhian Adames. He lofted a ball to right field that Ben Gamel settled under and then lost in the sun. It fell on the warning track for a “triple” that cleared the bases to make it 5-0.
Burnes would toss one more inning, going scoreless in the fourth. His day ended with five runs allowed - but only two earned - on five hits with zero walks and three punchouts. Burnes stated that his goal today was to work in his curveball more frequently, and he spun a few dandies up there, if I do say so myself. He lowered his ERA to 6.75 in Cactus League play.
Milwaukee’s offense began to mount their comeback in the bottom of the third inning. They chipped away one run on an RBI double by Yasmani Grandal that scored Lorenzo Cain. In the fourth, Jesus Aguilar led off with a single and was followed by a Cory Spangenberg walk against Kyle Hendricks, who was then yanked in favor of Dakota Mekkes. Orlando Arcia greeted him by parking a three-run dinger over the fence in left-center field to make it 5-4.
After a scoreless inning by Brad Brach in the fifth, Brian Duensing came out for the sixth inning. Gamel did what he could to atone for his earlier misplay by launching a homer to right-center with one out to tie the game up at 5 apiece. The next batter, Tyler Saladino, crushed his second home run of the Cactus League to push the Maryvale Nine ahead, 6-5. Milwaukee’s 7th and final run came in the seventh inning on an RBI double by prospect Payton Henry.
A spate of bullpen candidates held the Cubs scoreless for the final five innings following Burnes’ exit. Alex Claudio and Jacob Barnes both tossed perfect innings with a strikeout, then Jake Petricka (one walk) and Burch Smith (two walks) pitched scoreless frames while issuing free passes. Jay Jackson recorded his second Cactus League save with a scoreless ninth, allowing a hit while punching out one.
The win moves Milwaukee back over the .500 mark to 9-8, while the Cubs fall to 11-7. The team stays at Maryvale for tomorrow’s matchup against the White Sox (6-8) with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM central. Jhoulys Chacin is set to begin the game for the Brewers against Ivan Nova, and the radio broadcast will be on 94.5 FM locally in Milwaukee.