When Scooter Gennett's ball started heading toward the right-field seats with a runner on base and two out in the bottom of the ninth Wednesday night, the first feeling I had was one of déjà vu, because as you know, the Cubs lost a game just a few weeks ago the very same way -- on a walkoff homer when they were ahead.
Unlike that game in New York, Carlos Marmol wasn't on the mound Wednesday night -- not even on the team any more, as you know -- and when Gennett's drive settled into Nate Schierholtz's glove about a step and a half from the wall, the Cubs had a 5-4 win over the Brewers. It was the team's first win at Miller Park since June 5, 2012, with nine losses in a row intervening.
Before that, Kevin Gregg made all of us nervous by allowing a home run to Juan Francisco and a double to Rickie Weeks, putting the tying run in scoring position with nobody out. Gregg actually made his pitch to Weeks, down in the zone, but Weeks, who is about the hottest hitter in baseball right now (14-for-30, 467/.529/.967 in his last nine games), went and got it. Credit to the hitter on that one. Weeks advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt, and then the Cubs made the pulled-in infield work.
How many times have you seen a manager pull in his infield, only to have a hitter bounce a ball right where a fielder would have been if only he'd been in normal position? This time, Luis Valbuena was in perfect position to snag a sharp ground ball by Yuniesky Betancourt. He fired home, and Welington Castillo hung on to the ball in a collision with Weeks to tag him out, preserving the Cubs lead, which turned into the win on Gennett's fly ball.
The Cubs improved to 9-16 in one-run games with the win, and despite allowing the homer, Gregg is still a perfect 12-for-12 in save opportunities; as Len Kasper mentioned on WGN, only Randy Myers (13-for-13) has started a season as a Cub with more consecutive converted save opps.
The Cubs again took an early lead and this time they held it, even while Scott Feldman was getting nicked for single runs in the second, third and sixth innings. Feldman registered his ninth quality start in 15 outings, and for whatever this is worth, became the first Cubs starter since Opening Day to go over .500 in W/L record (7-6). Feldman gave more reasons to think that he might be in another uniform come July 31.
Overall, the Cubs rank fourth in the National League in QS with 46 (behind the Phillies, Braves and Reds). I'm well aware that QS is a flawed stat, but Cubs starters have been very, very good for the most part this year, with one notable (cough Edwin Jackson cough) exception. James Russell and Carlos Villanueva provided good setup relief for Gregg.
Anthony Rizzo drove in a pair of runs, and he is also heating up with the bat (10-for-24, three doubles, two home runs, .417/.500/.792 over his last seven games). Starlin Castro, restored to the No. 2 spot in the order, also had two hits, along with a walk, and much better at-bats than we've seen recently. Here's hoping this is a good sign for Castro. Ryan Sweeney homered, his second in his last three games, and Brian Bogusevic, filling in for Alfonso Soriano, was 2-for-4 with a walk.
Just for comparison's sake, the last time Soriano had a game in which he had at least two hits and one walk was exactly a month earlier, May 26. Since then Soriano is hitting .206/.231/.353 in 26 games (21-for-102, with three walks and 27 strikeouts). He really did need a day off. I simply don't understand Dale Sveum's aversion to giving his regulars time off when they're in a slump.
So the Cubs go into the final game of this series with a chance to win it. They had that same chance in the June series a year ago; in that game they blew an eighth-inning lead and lost in extra innings (do yourself a favor and don't look at the details).
A series win in Milwaukee hasn't happened since September 2010. It would be nice for this team to head to the West Coast with one of those. The game preview for Thursday afternoon's contest will post at 11:30 a.m. CDT.