On a day when temperatures reached north of 90 degrees in Chicago and the “feels like” temperature was more than 100, it was a rough afternoon to be a pitcher in the middle of a long inning.
Both Freddy Peralta and Devin Williams survived theirs, though, while Justin Steele did not as the Brewers pulled out a gutsy 4-2 win in 7 innings in the first of two games today.
Peralta was not the sharpest he’s ever been, but given the miserable heat, that’s probably understandable. Both he and Steele were scoreless through the first two innings, though, with the latter forcing plenty of groundouts and weak contact from the Brewers’ bats.
Things got interesting in the third inning, though, as the heat seemed to take an effect on Peralta and the Brewers.
A leadoff single by Sergio Alcantara was followed by a single by Rafael Ortega, which Avi Garcia misplayed and overran in right-center, allowing Alcantara and Ortega to take third and second base, respectively. Peralta, who fought his command for much of the afternoon, then lost control of a pitch that hit — who else — Willson Contreras to load the bases.
Contreras and David Ross whined about the HBP some, acting like it was intentional even though that’s a pretty stupid idea considering the situation and Contreras again did not really bother with trying to get out of the way.
That set up a tense bases-loaded at-bat for Peralta against Patrick Wisdom. After nearly getting Wisdom looking on a 2-2 slider that just barely missed the outside corner, Peralta couldn’t control another fastball, walking Wisdom and forcing in the game’s first run.
Weirdly, Wisdom stared Peralta down as he took his time getting to first base. It was odd behavior from someone who nearly went down looking to kill a rally, but it may have provided the Brewers with some much-needed motivation against an otherwise underwhelming opponent.
Peralta was able to get out of the third inning without any further damage, and Willy Adames promptly tied the game again with a leadoff opposite-field home run into the basket in right field.
Eduardo Escobar followed with a double down the first-base line, and then Garcia made up for his defensive gaffe with a monster two-run home run that traveled more than 450 feet, giving the Brewers a 3-1 lead.
The Brewers would add an important BMIR in the top of the 6th inning, when Lorenzo Cain hit his first home run in more than 3 months, going opposite field to bump the Brewers’ lead to 4-1.
Earlier in the game, the on-field audio picked up someone asking Cain to hit a home run for him. Cain responded he was just trying to get a hit. As it turns out, the person who asked Cain to go deep was — who else — Willy Adames.
While that run wasn’t the deciding factor, it did provide some level of comfort in the last couple innings, as the Cubs made things more interesting than they had any right to be. Trying to save his bullpen and seeing Peralta settle down after that third inning, Craig Counsell sent him back out to start the 6th inning.
That nearly didn’t work out, as Peralta threw away a tapper in front of the mound by Wisdom, with the ball going out of play and allowing Wisdom to take second base. Another bad bounce for the Brewers followed, as a Frank Schwindel hot shot to third base bounced off Luis Urias and out of play, driving in Wisdom and allowing Schwindel to take a free second base.
Brad Boxberger relieved Peralta after that play and managed to shut the door on that inning, but the Cubs had more fight left in the 7th inning.
With Devin Williams trying to lock down his second career save, Chicago made him work hard for it. Seemingly sitting back on Williams’ changeup and taking advantage of him leaving it in the middle of the zone early in the inning, the Cubs were able to put on the pressure early. Matt Duffy came through with a pinch-hit single and Ortega followed with a bloop single to bring the winning run to the plate with nobody out.
Luckily, Williams was able to once again find the feel for his changeup halfway through the inning. He got Contreras to pop out for the first out of the inning, only to see Ian Happ hit a liner to load the bases. From there, Williams’ changeup was electric, getting Wisdom to whiff on it and causing Greg Deichmann to cut through a 98 mph fastball to end the game.
It was a lot more interesting than the Brewers would have liked to see, but perhaps this game was a reminder not to take the depleted Cubs too lightly this week.
First pitch for game two is set for 7:05 p.m. with Aaron Ashby getting a chance at redemption.