The Cubs went back to 1½ games ahead of the Brewers in the N.L. Central with this extra-inning win. Their record was 55-48 and they were 12-3 since the All-Star break.
The usual phrase for a game like this is “an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel,” but to me, that calls up the notion of pitchers like Fergie Jenkins and Bob Gibson both throwing into extra innings, as they did on Opening Day 1971.
In this one, though, neither starting pitcher recorded more than 15 outs and all told, 14 pitchers threw, seven for both the Cubs and Brewers. After all that, it took this home run [VIDEO] from Jason Heyward for the Cubs to pull out a hard-fought 2-1, 11-inning win:
That was the Cubs’ only extra-base hit of the night, and one of just three hits had by anyone other than Kris Bryant, who had three singles. There had been some mention of Heyward’s slump in the comments to Friday’s recap, and in fact coming into that 11th-inning at-bat, Heyward was in a 1-for-21 skid. Of course, he’d helped the team out defensively through that stretch, particularly Friday night, but some were beginning to wonder if Heyward’s revamped swing wasn’t working anymore.
I think it was just a “normal” slump, something players go through from time to time in any season, and he really squared up on that pitch from Jared Hughes. He’d previously been 3-for-10 against Hughes with two doubles. Nice work from J-Hey, and then there was this:
Funny -- Miller Park's music folks are playing Heyward's walk-up music between innings. Not sure they're aware of that. #Cubs fans know— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 30, 2017
Let’s rewind to the beginning. Kyle Hendricks served up a first-inning run to the Brewers, the first first-inning run allowed by the Cubs in the 15 games since the All-Star break. But then Hendricks settled down and allowed no further scoring. WGN’s pitch-speed meter showed him at 85 in the early innings, but it appeared he held something back, as there were a few 88’s by the fifth. Perhaps it’s taking Kyle a bit of time to get back up to, uh, speed, such as it is. If he can consistently get back to the 88-89 level he was throwing at last year, that will make his changeup more effective.
Kyle was taken out after allowing a leadoff single to Ryan Braun in the sixth, but with just the one run allowed. Brian Duensing and Carl Edwards Jr. got out of that inning, and so since Hendricks’ return from the disabled list he has thrown 9⅓ innings, allowed 14 hits but no walks, struck out eight and given up one earned run.
In other words, pretty typical Kyle Hendricks.
Meanwhile, the Cubs were piling up baserunners but not scoring. They loaded the bases in the third on a pair of walks and an error with two out, but Kyle Schwarber hit a sharp line drive right at Lewis Brinson to end the inning. They also stranded runners in the fifth and sixth and finally broke through to tie the game in the seventh. Jon Jay singled and advanced to second on a groundout when Eric Thames decided to take the out at first instead of trying to get the lead runner. That turned out to be important, as Bryant then ripped an 0-2 pitch into left field [VIDEO].
Bryant’s single tied the game 1-1.
Neither team did much in the eighth and ninth, so on it went to extras. The Cubs had a shot at scoring in the 10th when Anthony Rizzo led off with a walk. Willson Contreras laid down what looked like a bunt single, but it rolled foul. Then Rizzo took off for second — was a sign missed? Or did Rizzo think he’d catch Hughes and Brewers catcher Manny Pina napping? Rizzo was thrown out and the Cubs went down quietly.
But so did the Brewers. Overall, Cubs relievers (Duensing, Edwards, Pedro Strop, Koji Uehara, Mike Montgomery and Wade Davis) combined for six innings in which they allowed one hit and two walks (one intentional) and struck out eight, just outstanding work from the pen.
That set the stage for Heyward’s game-winner, his second since the All-Star break. Even with that 1-for-21 stretch, Heyward is now hitting .255/.305/.472 (14-for-55) with two doubles, two triples and two home runs in 14 games since the break. Between that and his defense, I think he’s doing just fine.
Davis (21st save) issued a two-out walk to Orlando Arcia in the 11th, then struck out Jonathan Villar to nail down this hard-earned win and put the Cubs back to 1½ games in first place, which means they’ll leave Milwaukee no worse than half a game ahead, and perhaps 2½ ahead if they can win the series finale Sunday.
Having watched these two games, I’ll give the Brewers a lot of credit. They’re ahead of schedule on their rebuild, much as the Cubs were in 2015, and they do appear to be for real. Some of their young players are quite good and they’ve managed to put together a pretty good bullpen, too. The Cubs are 6-5 against them so far this year and they’ve had to earn every win. In the end I believe the Cubs are the better team and will win the division, but give the Brewers props for being a worthy opponent.
One slightly discordant note: The Cubs struck out 17 times in this game, the second time this week they did that and won anyway. Joe Maddon, though, knows that has to change:
#Cubs struck out 17 times. Maddon: "I am disappointed in the lack of contact. We have to do better or we're not going anywhere offensively"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 30, 2017
Watching this one on TV, it sounded like a Wrigley crowd, there were so many Cubs fans in the sellout of 44,709, the largest Miller Park crowd of the season. This five-game “road trip” to the South Side of Chicago and Milwaukee must feel like home to Cubs players, there are so many Cubs fans cheering in those road parks, and the Cubs have won three of the four games.
The Cubs go for meatloaf in Milwaukee Sunday afternoon. John Lackey goes for the Cubs and Zach Davies for the Brewers.