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Brewers 1, Cubs 0: A whole lot of nothing

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The Cubs got great pitching, but were blanked again.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs did just about everything right in this game, at least from a pitching standpoint. Just four hits and two walks were allowed on the afternoon by Mike Montgomery, Justin Wilson, Steve Cishek and Brian Duensing.

Unfortunately, one of those hits was a solo homer by Lorenzo Cain, and the Cubs could not solve Jhoulys Chacin and three Brewers relievers, and thus lost the game 1-0 and the series two games to one.

Montgomery was, again, magnificent in his fourth start since taking over for Yu Darvish after Darvish hit the disabled list. You can’t do much better than this:

There’s going to be a conversation, I suppose soon, about what’s going to happen to Montgomery when Darvish returns. (Tyler Chatwood is going to be part of that discussion, I’d think.)

It’s the first time the Cubs have been shut out in back-to-back games since April 1 and 2, when the Marlins and Reds (!) shut them out. The 1-0 loss to the Reds April 2 still stands as Cincinnati’s only shutout this year.

The bottom line is that the Cubs just ran into a couple of hot pitchers the last two games, and they allowed the Brewers just seven runs in the entire series, so Cubs pitching wasn’t an issue, either. The entire season series between the Cubs and Brewers has gotten quite interesting, pitching-wise:

Also of interest regarding this game:

There were two other things of interest that happened late in this contest. The first is depicted at the top of this post, Anthony Rizzo getting into it in the eighth inning with plate umpire Jim Reynolds over a pitch that Rizzo thought was ball four. Reynolds called Rizzo out on strikes, and honestly I don’t think I’ve ever seen Rizzo quite that animated over a ball-and-strike call. Fortunately, Joe Maddon came quickly out of the dugout and neither was ejected.

And looking at this, it appears Reynolds’ call was correct:

Can’t really argue with that, the location (pitch 6) appears in that image to be the same as two previous pitches in the zone during that at-bat. Close, but on the line. It’s a pitch that the @CubsUmp Twitter account was silent about, thus not one that occasionally is called a ball by any umpire.

You can’t really say that squelched a rally, either; it was the second out of the inning. Ian Happ singled after that, but nothing further happened when Kyle Schwarber struck out on a 96 mile per hour fastball from Josh Hader.

Then Joe started some shenanigans in order to try to keep the game close. With the Brewers having alternating righthanded and lefthanded hitters due up (including expected LH pinch-hitter Eric Thames), Joe began the bottom of the eighth with Steve Cishek on the mound. Orlando Arcia hit a ground ball that most infielders wouldn’t have even been able to slow down; Javier Baez did, but there’s no way his throw would have beaten Arcia even if it had been on line.

So with Thames due up, Joe put Cishek in left field and brought Brian Duensing into the game. Schwarber, who had made the last out of the top of the inning, left the game. Duensing struck out Thames, and then headed to left field while Cishek returned to the mound. Cishek got Cain to ground out, and since you can only make that pitcher-to-left-field swap once, when Duensing returned to pitch to Christian Yelich, Willson Contreras entered the game in left field. (Contreras was going to have to bat in that spot anyway in the ninth inning.)

Sure enough, Yelich hit Duensing’s first pitch (which was actually Duensing’s fifth pitch) into the left-field corner where Willson snagged it. And in case you’ve forgotten:

The Cubs had their shot at it in the ninth, but Baez (who had two hits earlier in the game), Chris Gimenez and Contreras were retired 1-2-3 by Corey Knebel to end it.

Kris Bryant, as I had forecast, got the entire afternoon off. KB is in an 0-for-15 slump (five strikeouts), and by sitting him all day (he likely wasn’t getting in this game unless it went to extra innings), that essentially gives him three full days of rest, since the Cubs don’t play again until Friday night. Joe has done this before with slumping players, to give them a break so they can clear their heads, and it’s worked in the past. Bryant will eventually be fine.

Give the Brewers credit, they did what they needed to do in order to shut down the Cubs offense. Like the Brewers, the Cubs scored seven runs in the series — all of them in Monday night’s win. This is just part of the ups and downs of a long season.

Oh, one last thing:

Blue alt: 5-12
Road gray: 13-2

The Cubs will surely enjoy their Thursday off — at home, in Chicago — before heading to St. Louis to begin a weekend series against the Cardinals. Friday night, Jon Lester will face Michael Wacha, and both are having excellent seasons. Game time Friday is 7:15 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be on ABC7 Chicago. (Please wear the road grays in St. Louis!)