The Chicago Cubs and their fans invaded Miller Park for a pivotal mid-summer series beginning tonight, with Gio Gonzalez getting the ball for the home team against Kyle Hendricks of the North Side Nine. Both starting pitchers were on top of their game in the early going.
Hendricks delivered 5.0 innings of shutout baseball, yielding only two hits and two walks while punching out five. Gio went toe-to-to with him, beginning the game with five scoreless, hitless innings of his own. But the Cubs finally broke through against Gonzalez in the sixth, with Albert Almora breaking up the no-no with a lead-off single before David Bote ended the shutout by launching a two-run homer. Hoping for more offense in the inning, Joe Maddon sent out Kyle Schwarber to pinch-hit for Hendricks, who had thrown 90 pitches. But Gio was able to navigate through the rest of the sixth without any further damage.
Gonzalez came back out for the seventh and after striking out Javier Baez to start the frame, an injury timeout was taken on the mound. Gonzalez threw one warm-up pitch and was pulled out of the game by manager Craig Counsell and his head athletic trainer. His final was line 6.1 innings with three hits, two runs, and one walk along with nine strikeouts, a season-high. He threw 93 pitches before exiting. The last thing that the Brewers can afford right now is another lengthy absence from a starting pitcher after losing both Brandon Woodruff and Jhoulys Chacin to multi-week injuries in just the past few days. After missing nearly two months with a dead arm and shoulder inflammation, Gonzalez’s injury this evening was announced as “left shoulder tightness.” At least at this point it isn’t believed to be serious:
Gio is day to day, Counsell said. He tightened up in the 7th. Not ruling him out for his next start.— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) July 27, 2019
Adrian Houser relieved Gio and retired the next two batters to get out of the seventh, and then Milwaukee began to mount their comeback in the bottom of the 7th against the Cubs’ bullpen. Steve Cishek walked Ben Gamel with one out, and he moved up to second base on a ground out by Lorenzo Cain. That prompted Maddon to come out and replace Cishek with old friend Brandon Kintzler to face Christian Yelich. The reigning NL MVP delivered a ground ball single to plate Gamel for the Brew Crew’s first run of the game.
Houser threw a perfect eighth and let the offense go to work once again in the bottom half. It started with a Keston Hiura walk, and then he stole second base with Eric Thames at the plate. Thames fought through an eight pitch at-bat that ended with a hit by pitch, and then Kintzler was replaced by Pedro Strop. Ryan Braun pinch hit and was plunked by the first pitch that Strop delivered, a 91 MPH fastball. That loaded the bases for Jesus Aguilar, who got ahead 2-0 then ended up having a terrible AB that ended with a popup to second base. Thankfully, it was Ben Gamel to the rescue with two outs. He lined a 1-0 fastball to right field to drive in two and give the Brewers a 3-2 lead.
Josh Hader entered in the ninth inning and worked around a one-out single by striking out a pair on the way to recording his 23rd save of the season. The win moves our Cream City Nine to 55-50; they are 7-3 in their last 10 games and now trail the Cubs by merely one game in the standings. But both clubs are now looking up at the St. Louis Cardinals, who moved into first place alone atop the NL Central with a 5-3 win over the Astros tonight.
These two teams will square off again tomorrow night, with Chase Anderson set to toe the slab for the Brewers against Jon Lester. First pitch is scheduled for 6:10 PM central.