So when the Cubs took a 5-0 lead in the first inning on Junior Lake's first career grand slam, what was your first thought?
If it was like mine, it was, "This team blew a lead exactly like this one just one week ago today. How are they going to blow this one today?"
All right, enough of that thinking, because they didn't, although they did need to score some extra runs to ensure an 8-5 win over the Brewers. It's just the second time since the All-Star break (both on this homestand) that the Cubs have won back-to-back home games, and the win lifted them into a tie for fourth place with Milwaukee.
In addition to his slam, Lake laid down a gorgeous bunt single in the third inning that loaded the bases. Chris Rusin drove in a pair of runs -- his first two major-league RBI -- with a single up the middle to make it 7-2 Cubs.
Unfortunately, Rusin got himself in trouble with too many hits allowed, too many walks and too many long counts and had to be pulled with two out in the fourth inning and two runners on base. Carlos Villanueva entered, struck out Jonathan Lucroy to end that threat, and then struck out four of the six other Brewers he faced, one of Villanueva's best outings of the season. Because Rusin didn't finish five innings, Villanueva was credited with the "win", for whatever that's worth.
After the Cubs took that 7-2 lead, it was up to the rest of the pen to hold it. Justin Grimm made his Cubs debut and threw an effective inning, allowing just one walk. In making his appearance, Grimm helped the Cubs tie a franchise record -- he's the 53rd Cub to appear this season, tying the team record set last year. There are still three more Cubs who have not yet appeared -- J.C. Boscan, Scott Baker (who will start Sunday, breaking the record then if it isn't done Saturday) and Daniel Bard, who was in the bullpen Friday wearing No. 28, and who is expected to pitch in relief before this year is over.
Grimm probably could have stuck around for game's end, given that he's been a starter all year, but Dale decided to give an inning of work to Pedro Strop. After two strikeouts and two singles, Strop let pinch-hitter Scooter Gennett hit a fly ball to right that just barely made it into the basket for a three-run homer, making the game close at 7-5.
The Cubs scored a run in the eighth, and that set up Kevin Gregg for another franchise milestone. In all of Cubs history before 2013, there had been just 16 30-save seasons. Gregg retired the Brewers 1-2-3 in the ninth for his 30th save. It's the third 30-save year of Gregg's career; the last 30-save Cub seasons were posted by Carlos Marmol in 2011 (34) and 2010 (38). Next up on the team list: 31-save seasons by Ted Abernathy (1965), Bruce Sutter (1977) and Lee Smith (1986). Abernathy's 31-save season in 1965 is noteworthy; it was the first 30-save season in major-league history and put Abernathy on the map, if briefly (the record was broken the next year) as one of the first "closers", though not in the modern sense; Abernathy appeared in 82 games, threw 136⅓ innings and 17 of his saves were more than one inning.
Lake's blast was the third Cubs slam of the season; if you had to guess without looking, could you name the other two? Use your mouse to highlight this entire paragraph to find the answer, as I'm hiding it using white text right after this sentence. Travis Wood on May 30 and Scott Hairston on May 31.
All of this on a gorgeous, summer-like afternoon in front of yet another sparse crowd; 25,351 was the tickets-sold count, but many thousands fewer actually attended the game. Those who were there saw a nice offensive outburst; Anthony Rizzo added to the fun with two hits, as did Welington Castillo and Donnie Murphy. All told, the Cubs pounded out 13 hits off Kyle Lohse and two Milwaukee relievers.
Wins are nice. That's enjoyable baseball, even if the result doesn't mean much. The two teams will go at it again Saturday -- and remember, Saturday's game time has been changed. Original schedules (and tickets) show Saturday as a 12:05 start, but it was switched to 3:05 a few weeks ago. Jake Arrieta takes the mound against Johnny Hellweg.