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2017 Cubs victories revisited, April 8: Cubs 11, Brewers 6

The Cubs brought out the big lumber and defeated the Brew Crew.

Apr 8, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA;  Chicago Cubs center fielder Albert Almora Jr. (5) drives in a run with an infield hit in the fifth inning during the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

After dropping the first game of a three-game set at Miller Park, the Cubs evened up their series with the Brewers with this offensive explosion. After this win the Cubs were 3-2 and tied for first place in the N.L. Central with the Reds.

Just when it seemed as if every 2017 game would be a close, hard-fought struggle, the Cubs located their bats and pounded out 17 hits en route to an 11-6 win over the Brewers Saturday night that wasn’t really that close. It was the first Cubs game in five 2017 outings that was decided by more than two runs.

It didn’t start out that way. Kyle Hendricks, whose game is inducing weak contact, got hit hard in the first inning, allowing hits to the first three batters he faced, including a home run by Jonathan Villar.

But Hendricks settled down and made it through six innings. He allowed another homer, a two-run blast by Nick Franklin (who the Brewers just acquired three days earlier) but helped get those runs back by getting two hits himself and driving in a run. While this game was the first time Kyle had allowed two homers in a game since 2015, it was also the third multi-hit game of his career. Cubs pitchers are 5-for-11 so far in 2017, and Hendricks joins Madison Bumgarner, Edinson Volquez and his teammate John Lackey as the only pitchers to have multi-hit games so far this year.

It’s much more fun to talk about all this offense, right?

The Cubs scored three in the third inning, with RBIs from Kris Bryant (his first two of 2017) and Ben Zobrist. After Bryant had driven in another run in the fourth to make it 4-2 Cubs, the Brewers tied it up on Franklin’s homer.

Hendricks and Albert Almora Jr. had RBI singles in the fifth to make it 6-4 Cubs, and Almora singled again (one of his three hits) in the seventh to make it 7-4. Then the Cubs put the game away with a four-run eighth. Willson Contreras drove in a pair with a double and Javier Baez hit a two-run single.

Three Cubs — Bryant, Almora and Addison Russell — had three hits each and Baez and Hendricks added two apiece.

But that wasn’t all from Almora. He made this outstanding catch to end the Brewers fifth inning with the Cubs up by two:

And, as noted by Len Kasper, Kyle Schwarber steered clear of Almora. We certainly don’t want to see Kyle hurt again.

Len also noted the reason Almora has dropped the “Jr.” from the back of his jersey. Apparently, the extra letters required a larger size shirt, and Almora didn’t care for that.

Remember yesterday when I noted that the Cubs ranked 12th in the National League in runs? The 11-run outburst — just the fifth time so far this young season that any team has scored that many in a game — moved the Cubs up to seventh. They’re tied for fourth in runs allowed with 17, but that’s just one more run given up than the three teams that currently lead the N.L. (Pirates, Marlins, Dodgers).

Apart from Hendricks’ pitching, which looked pretty good after that first inning (retired 10 in a row at one point), Pedro Strop threw a scoreless inning. Justin Grimm gave up the Brewers’ third homer of the night, a two-run blast in the ninth, but he might have been overextended a bit in Joe Maddon’s apparent effort to give some of the bullpen the night off. Grimm threw 32 pitches. He threw more than that in a game just once in 68 appearances last year.

But all’s well that ends well. The Cubs also drew five walks in this game, giving them 19 in five games. I’m not necessarily expecting them to approach or break the franchise record they set in 2016, but I’ll be keeping an eye on this in the near future.

The sellout crowd at Miller Park sounded like at least two-thirds Cubs fans, and even louder at the end of the game when the Cubs were nailing down their five-run win.