Over his past six games, Anthony Rizzo had gone 4-for-22 with six strikeouts. So Cubs manager Rick Renteria thought it would be a good time to give him a day off Friday -- that would give Rizzo two full days off, with the off day Thursday, perhaps a chance to clear his head and begin hitting well again, starting Saturday. (Starlin Castro is likely getting a similar day off Sunday.)
You could have forgiven Rizzo if he'd headed into the clubhouse at Miller Park after the Brewers took a 6-0 lead in the second inning and watched the Blackhawks playoff game. I'll let you in on a little secret -- that's what I did. Not in the Cubs' clubhouse, of course, but I switched over to watch the Hawks tie up their series with the Kings (nice work, and especially by Patrick Kane) and followed the Cubs via Gameday, switching back to the baseball game during hockey intermissions.
Turns out I didn't miss much, as the Brewers blew out the Cubs 11-5. The Cubs did try to make it a game in the third, scoring a pair of runs, but Travis Wood had put them too deep in the hole. The 2⅔ inning, seven-run outing was the shortest (except for that ridiculous, one-inning-to-get-to-200, "we give up" start agains the Cardinals last September) and worst of his Cubs career.
Not sure what's going on with Wood. After a decent April, his May was horrific (6.62 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, four home runs allowed in 34 innings). Perhaps the turn of the calendar to June will be kind to Wood; otherwise I'd have to think there might be something physically wrong with him.
The Brewers scored almost every way you can think of. Singles, doubles, a home run by Ryan Braun, even a perfectly-executed squeeze bunt by pitcher Marco Estrada. That one was off Carlos Villanueva, who ate up some innings in relief, but after allowing four runs in 2⅓ innings, saw his ERA jump from 7.33 (it had gone down in six straight appearances) to 7.98.
Jose Veras, pitching in garbage time with the Cubs down 11-2, threw two scoreless innings, so there's that. Does this mean he will eventually have trade value? Do this about six more times in a row and then I'd say, "Maybe."
The Cubs certainly had enough chances to score runs Friday night; they had 10 hits in all and drew six walks. They left 10 runners on base and went 3-for-13 with RISP, although that latter figure was enhanced by a pair of RBI singles with two out in the ninth inning, when Brewers reliever Tyler Thornburg was laboring through a 29-pitch inning with an eight-run lead. Thornburg gave the Cubs a couple of consolation runs, which made the final score appear closer than the game really was. Earlier, Nate Schierholtz had hit his second home run of the season. Schierholtz is 10-for-37 (.270/.341/.486) over his last 10 games with that pair of homers -- perhaps he's coming out of his season-long slump.
That's about all the good I've got from this one. It was great to see the Hawks come from behind in the third period and win Game 6 -- now go close it out Sunday!
The Cubs, meanwhile, will play the second game of their far-less-meaningful series in Miller Park Saturday afternoon -- note that it's a day game, unusual for Milwaukee in the summer. Game time is 3:10 p.m. CT, with Jason Hammel facing Wily Peralta. The game preview will post at 1 p.m. CT.