WP - Jay Jackson (1-0)
LP - Tyler Chatwood (5-3)
HR - MIL: Christian Yelich (42)
To their credit, though, they responded about as well as they could have, pitching back-to-back shutouts in virtual must-win situations, the second being a 4-0 win Sunday to steal a series in Chicago and move to just 3 games back of the NL’s final playoff spot.
While the end result was good, you’d probably hesitate to call this a well-executed game by the Brewers. With two starting pitchers unable to find the strikezone, there were plenty of chances for both teams to score early on Sunday. Luckily, the Brewers were the team to get a run across early, before Christian Yelich broke out of his recent slump to give the team some breathing room heading into the bottom of the 9th inning.
Tyler Chatwood started for the Cubs, a late spot starter in place of the scratched Yu Darvish. Chatwood has struggled with command during his Cubs tenure, and that was the case again early Sunday. Trent Grisham and Yasmani Grandal started the game by walking before a single by Eric Thames loaded the bases. Sensing a big inning, Grisham was held at third on the single. Instead, Ben Gamel and Travis Shaw struck out to end the inning.
The Cubs had their own frustrations early as Gio Gonzalez walked 4 over the course of 3 innings, but was able to work out of trouble without allowing a hit. With a full bullpen, Craig Counsell went back into the September managing mode that worked so well last year, using 6 pitchers to get through the game’s final 6 innings, with those arms only allowing 4 hits and a walk while keeping the Cubs off the board.
The Brewers were able to at least scratch one run across in the 4th inning against Chatwood, when Gamel and Cory Spangenberg led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Gamel was able to get to third on the play, with the throw allowing Spangenberg to advance to second base. Orlando Arcia followed by at least making contact, grounding out to second base and to bring Gamel home.
The score would remain 1-0 for nearly the rest of the game (including another missed bases loaded opportunity for the Brewers in the 5th inning, albeit that one with two outs), although the Cubs did threaten in the bottom of the 6th inning. Matt Albers started that inning in relief of Jay Jackson, who had thrown 2 scoreless innings, but allowed a leadoff single to Victor Caratini and then hit the pinch-hitting Anthony Rizzo with a pitch. With it pretty clearly being one of Albers’ Bad Control Days, Counsell quickly pulled Albers in favor of Alex Claudio, who was able to get out of the 2-on, nobody-out jam on just 2 pitches. Jason Heyward kindly gave the Brewers the first out of the inning by bunting, allowing Grandal to pounce on the ball in front of the plate and throw out Caratini at third. That was followed by Addison Russell grounding into an inning-ending double play on one pitch.
The Brewers’ bullpen would only allow one more hit in the game -- a single by Kris Bryant in the 8th inning off of Junior Guerra. Bryant was able to reach second base on a wild pitch that inning, but after Guerra sat down Caratini with a strikeout, Counsell went to deadline acquisition Drew Pomeranz for the kind of situation he was acquired for -- facing a pair of tough lefties with the game-tying run in scoring position. Pomeranz came through in a big way, striking out both Heyward and Anthony Rizzo with ease, throwing 6 of his 8 pitches for strikes.
Josh Hader was warming up to protect a one-run lead in the 9th inning when the Brewers put together a rally against Craig Kimbrel. New call-up Tyler Austin was able to work a walk -- the 11th combined walk of the game -- before Grisham followed with another single. With two outs and two strikes in the inning, Yelich snapped out of a long (for him) home run drought, crushing a pitch just right of dead center for a three-run blast, his 42nd home run of the season.
Hader still entered the game despite the 4-run lead and once again breezed through the Cubs, striking out Russell and Ian Happ before getting Tony Kemp to fly out to end the game.
The Brewers are now 3 games behind the Cubs with 4 left to play against them next weekend in Milwaukee. In between, they’ll face a big challenge with the Houston Astros coming to town and familiar faces in Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke scheduled to start.