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Brewers 2, Cubs 1: A Game Of Inches

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The Cubs went down to defeat in part due to a spectacular catch on a ball hit by Anthony Rizzo.

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Charles Schulz drew strips about baseball often during the 50-plus year run of Peanuts, but only once did he reference an actual big-league game.

That was Game 7 of the 1962 World Series. when Willie McCovey hit a screaming line drive with two out in the ninth, which was caught by Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson. Runners were on second and third at the time; if McCovey’s ball gets through, the Giants would likely have won the game and the Series.

But it didn’t, and the Giants lost, and Schulz, a huge Giants fan, wrote this strip — and then a month later, this one.

The stakes weren’t as high Wednesday night in Milwaukee, but Keon Broxton’s leaping catch of Anthony Rizzo’s drive with one out in the ninth, stealing a home run and preventing the game from being tied, brought those to mind. Credit where credit is due, here’s a look at the play:

As Schulz wrote: if only Rizzo had been able to hit the ball three feet higher, or even two feet higher.

That’s not the reason the Cubs lost to the Brewers 2-1, though. They lost the game primarily because they couldn’t put Matt Garza away in the first inning when they had the bases loaded on singles by Kris Bryant and Rizzo and a walk to Ben Zobrist. There was only one out.

Addison Russell hit into a force play, so now the bases were loaded with two out.

Chris Coghlan ran the count to 3-1 and then hit a routine grounder to short. I’m not sure why he’s not taking on 3-1; if it’s out of the zone, a run scores. Even if Garza throws a strike on 3-1, the count’s full and you have runners moving and...

Sigh. The Cubs couldn’t do much with Garza and three Brewers relievers the rest of the game. Rizzo homered in the sixth, to nearly the same spot he had with his second homer Tuesday. That tied the game after Jonathan Villar had homered off Mike Montgomery in the fourth.

Seriously, that was it. A leadoff walk to Zobrist provided the Cubs’ only other baserunner in the game. Yes, that’s all — I don’t often post every single Cubs baserunner in a game, but you’ve read about all of them here.

Villar homered off Joe Smith in the bottom of the eighth, producing the game-winner.

Montgomery threw a pretty good game, five innings and just one hit other than the home run. He ran a fair number of long counts, walked two, and left for Justin Grimm after five innings. Grimm threw six pitches to Jake Elmore, who singled, and then left the game. That was cause for concern until we learned this:

Don’t you just love Joe Maddon? What other major-league manager would say that about one of his players?

Anyway, I’m sure Grimm will be fine after a couple days. Carl Edwards Jr. got out of that mess, and Trevor Cahill and Travis Wood combined to throw a scoreless seventh.

But the Cubs simply couldn’t get any offense going at all. Hey, it happens. Tip your cap to Garza, and chalk this one up to the games you’re going to lose during the course of a long season.

Because the Cardinals lost to the Pirates Wednesday night, the Cubs’ magic number to clinch the N.L. Central dropped to nine, making it reasonably likely that the Cubs could clinch the division in St. Louis next week. That’d be fun. With the Nationals’ win over the Braves, the Cubs’ magic number to clinch the N.L.’s best record remained at 16.

The Cubs are off Thursday, but both the Cardinals (vs. the Brewers) and Nationals (vs. the Phillies) will be playing, so hopefully both those numbers will drop by one before the Cubs’ next game Friday in Houston, their first trip there to play the Astros since they became an American League team. Thus the Cubs will have three days’ worth of using the DH, which I assume Joe Maddon will use to give some of his regulars a day of rest from playing the field, while still giving them a few at-bats.

Friday evening, Jon Lester will face Houston’s Joe Musgrove. Also, Maddon has flip-flopped the other two starters for the weekend — John Lackey will go Saturday and Jake Arrieta Sunday.