A day of missed opportunities led the Brewers to a 4-6 loss to the Chicago Cubs to close out the I-94 showdown series.
The Crew loaded the bases or put the leadoff runner on in all but two innings. They left eleven stranded and went 2-11 with runners in scoring position. They threatened all day, but it was the Cubs who made the game-deciding rally in the eighth.
Eric Lauer delivered an expert start through 5.1 innings. He went into the fifth inning without surrending a hit or a run, and gave up both on a barely out-of-the-part solo shot to Trayce Thompson. The home run was the only hit Lauer allowed in his six-strikeout appearance.
Eric Lauer today: 5.1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 SO. In four September starts (24.2 IP), Lauer has allowed three earned runs.— Sophia Minnaert (@SophiaMinnaert) September 19, 2021
The Brewers answered back in the fifth. Jackie Bradley Jr. walked to lead off the inning, then scored on a Kolten Wong double to tie the game, 1-1. Wong came around to score when Eduardo Escobar followed up with a double of his own to bring the Brewers up 2-1.
In any other part of the season, Lauer would likely have stayed on beyond ninety pitches, one hit, and 5.1 innings, but with the regular season drawing to a close and a playoff spot clinched, manager Craig Counsell went to Hunter Strickland and the bullpen after Lauer walked Matt Duffy in the sixth.
Strickland allowed a single to Frank Schwindel before striking out the third and fourth in the Chicago lineup for a scoreless sixth. Jake Cousins put up a scoreless inning of his own, allowing only a walk and otherwise retiring the side with two strikeouts. It looked like a familiar scene at this point for the Brewers - an elite starter sets up a dominant bullpen to maintain a narrow lead while the offense hits in a few insurance runs or runs away with the game altogether.
That’s not how the anomalous eighth inning went, though, for Brad Boxberger or the Crew. Boxberger, who owns a sub-3.00 ERA with opponents slashing .184/.283/.311 against him, gave up a walk and two doubles, good for two runs. He handed the ball over with the Cubs up 3-2 and on the hook for the runner on second. Jandel Gustave came on to walk David Bote on five pitches. This meant it was a 3-run homer that Gustave gave up to Patrick Wisdom. It brought the Cubs up 6-2 before Gustave closed out the five-run eighth inning.
Miguel Sanchez left the Brewers within striking distance in the ninth, loading the bases but preventing any runs. Pablo Reyes and Eduardo Escobar found themselves on with two outs, both walked by a Rowan Wick who was struggling with control. Christian Yelich had been grounding out hard all day but reached on a groundball when it mattered in the ninth, knocking in Escobar, who had already advanced to second on defensive indifference.
Omar Narváez followed Yelich with a single of his own to advance Yelich to second. A wild pitch with Luis Urías at bat allowed Yelich and Narváez to advance to second and third. The same command walked Urías to load the bases for Jace Peterson. Peterson’s .369 OBP suggested something was going to happen here with the bases loaded, but Peterson flatly flew out to extinguish the rally and end the game.
The Crew will have to wait for a division clinch until their nearest competitor, the St. Louis Cardinals (11.5 games back), comes to town. The series kicks off tomorrow at 6:40 CT with Freddy Peralta on the mound.