WP - Junior Guerra (8-4)
LP - Cole Hamels (7-5)
SV - Josh Hader (27)
With their playoff chances hanging by a thread and a patchwork lineup due to injuries, the Brewers desperately needed an early lead and a strong pitching performance.
They got both Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field.
Manny Pina drove in 2 runs in the first inning off Cole Hamels, Zach Davies bounced back from a month of rough starts to shut out Chicago over 4 2/3 innings, and the bullpen shut the door after that as the Brewers stayed alive in the playoff race with a 2-0 win.
Neither team could get much going offensively with the wind blowing in from right field at Wrigley, but the Brewers were able to take advantage of some shaky command by Hamels and an iffy strike zone to take the early lead that would end up holding up.
Ben Gamel led off the game with a double down the third base line, the first of three hits (and two doubles) on the day in his return after a short stint at Triple-A. Christian Yelich and Yasmani Grandal would walk to load the bases to bring up the lefty-killing Pina, who was able to drop a single into shallow left field to score Gamel and Yelich.
Hamels would settle down after that, but luckily for the Brewers, Davies was sharp for much of the afternoon, scattering four weak hits before Craig Counsell elected to pull him with 2 outs in the 5th instead of letting him face the top of the Cubs’ lineup a third time.
Chicago only truly threatened the Brewers once, loading the bases against Drew Pomeranz in the 6th inning on a pair of weak singles by Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez and a walk to Victor Caratini. Counsell pulled Pomeranz in favor of Junior Guerra, who promptly induced an inning-ending grounder back to the mound to get out of the jam.
Guerra went on to throw a 1-2-3 7th inning and struck out Kris Bryant for the first out of the 8th inning before handing the ball off to Josh Hader for the save. Hader was able to easily lock it down, striking out 2 batters without allowing a hit — although he did get some help from Orlando Arcia with an incredible play to rob Rizzo of a hit in the 8th inning:
Most importantly, despite getting 5 outs, Hader only needed to throw 12 pitches (10 of which were strikes). Likewise, Guerra got 5 outs with just 17 pitches (12 strikes). Even with rosters expanding Sunday and a slew of new arms available, those limited pitch counts could mean both Guerra and Hader are available again for what will be an important series finale.
The Brewers move to 69-66 on the year with the win, and 50-23 when they score first. They trimmed their wildcard deficit behind the Cubs to 4 games with 27 to play. Elsewhere in the playoff race, the Phillies currently trail the Mets, which means the Brewers could move into a tie for third place in the wildcard standings.
Gio Gonzalez will face off against Yu Darvish in tomorrow’s series-deciding game.