MILWAUKEE — The first seven Brewers hitters reached base against Jason Hammel Tuesday night, six by hit and one by walk, and all I could think was, “I drove all the way up here for this?”
This game did not help Hammel’s chances of making the postseason roster. It was already pretty clear that he wouldn’t be starting any playoff games, but now I’d have to think management might consider Trevor Cahill as a long-relief man in October instead of Hammel. Jason will have four more starts (probably) to make his case. Let’s hope he makes a better one than he did at Miller Park, where prior to Tuesday he had a 2.32 ERA in eight starts.
Before all that Brewers nonsense in the first, the game had started out well for the Cubs. Anthony Rizzo homered (to the opposite field, rare for him) with two out to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead that lasted maybe five minutes. The Cubs fan contingent in the Miller Park crowd of 32,888 was just as large as it was Monday, maybe 75-80 percent, and Rizzo got loud cheers for his blast.
Even after the Brewers’ five-run first inning, there was brief hope for a Cubs comeback. Miguel Montero slammed a home run with two out in the second, his first long ball since before the All-Star break. Since August 16 Miggy is hitting .400/.464/600 (10-for-25) with three doubles and a home run. It’s possible that he’d been bothered by the back issues that sent him to the DL back in May even up to a few weeks ago and he’s now back to close to 100 percent. He’s certainly making the case to be kept on the postseason roster.
So it’s 5-2 in the second inning, and with the way this Cubs team has hit, that appeared to give them a chance to come back.
But Hammel had to gut this one out, likely to see what he could show after that horrific first inning. He did all right until the sixth, giving up just one further run in that span. That one was unearned due to a throwing error by Montero. But then a long triple by Jonathan Villar was followed by a walk to Kirk Nieuwenhuis, all this with two out in the sixth, and Ryan Braun cleared the bases with a three-run homer, and that was all for Hammel.
Hector Rondon made his first appearance since coming off the DL in the seventh. Domingo Santana bounced a single past a diving Javier Baez, stole second and scored on another single just past the reach of Baez. Hector eventually got out of the inning on a double play. His velocity was fine, touching 97 on the Miller Park board; it might have been location that was his problem, or maybe he was just “working on things” in his first outing back, in a game that was likely lost. It reminded me of his inning of work way back in spring training against the A’s, an inning where he gave up a couple of bouncy singles that could have been outs and wound up allowing three runs. Hector’s inning Tuesday night doesn’t look good in the boxscore, but I think everyone has to be satisfied with the way he came back from a three-week layoff.
Oh, that stolen base? What on Earth are the Brewers doing stealing bases when they’re up by seven runs in the seventh inning? You can rest assured that won’t be forgotten.
Two more Brewers runs scored in the eighth off Spencer Patton, both unearned due to a throwing error by Chris Coghlan, who had pinch-hit and was left in the game to play third base, his first appearance there since April. This was probably another Mad Scientist Maddon experiment to see how Coghlan might do in the infield, as a way of assessing whether he’ll be on the playoff roster.
The Cubs added a couple of runs in the eighth on Rizzo’s second homer of the game, hit off the right-field foul pole. A note on Rizzo’s homers:
Incidentally, the #VoteRizzo hashtag is for you to vote for him for this year’s Roberto Clemente Award, given annually to the player who "best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team." Rizzo surely exemplifies all those attributes, so get voting!
Another Cubs run came home in the ninth on back-to-back doubles by Montero and Munenori Kawasaki, who had been recalled and added to the active roster Tuesday. Kawasaki got loud cheers from the remnants of the Cubs-centric crowd, which had dwindled by the time that hit happened.
There’s one piece of video worth watching from this awful game: Jason Heyward made this spectacular catch [VIDEO] in the second inning, robbing Braun of extra bases.
There isn’t much more to say about this one. The Cubs’ magic numbers remained at 10 to clinch the N.L. Central (as the Cardinals won), and 16 to clinch the best record in the National League (as the Nationals won). The quest to reduce those numbers resumes Wednesday night at Miller Park, as the Cubs try to finish 2016 with a winning record in Milwaukee (they have split the eight games there so far). Mike Montgomery will pitch against our old buddy Matt Garza.
Site note: Cubs TV play-by-play announcer Len Kasper has graciously agreed to take your questions right here at BCB this afternoon. There will be a post at 1:30 p.m. CT; you post your questions and Len will answer them for about 45 minutes. Thanks to Len for doing this for us!