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Brewers 4, Cubs 2: The Cubs play a ‘normal’ game, lose again anyway

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Despite a Willson Contreras homer, the Cubs dropped the series finale in Milwaukee.

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Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

“It’s important we get off to a good start.” — Jed Hoyer

Well, that obviously hasn’t happened, and I’m sure you, along with everyone connected with the Cubs, couldn’t wait to have this road trip end. That would likely have been true even if they had won Sunday’s game, which they didn’t, losing 4-2 to the Brewers.

Len Kasper mentioned during the broadcast that this game felt more “normal,” unlike some of the wacky games we’ve seen among the Cubs’ first nine games of 2019. It was just the second Cubs game this year in which at least one of the two teams didn’t score at least eight (!) runs.

Kyle Hendricks once again had first-inning difficulties. Last year Kyle posted a 6.82 ERA in the first inning, 2.77 in all other innings. This year, in his first start he allowed four runs in the first inning, though all unearned due to some sketchy defense. Sunday, same old same old. Leadoff single by Lorenzo Cain, home run by Christian Yelich, a 2-0 Brewers lead after only seven pitches. The two-run shot turned out to be the difference in the game. It was Yelich’s first home run off a Cubs pitcher since August 3, 2016, when he homered off Joe Smith at Wrigley Field.

Hendricks was pulled after four innings and 75 pitches, by which time he’d given up two more Brewers runs. There was a runner on first base and one out at the time; I suppose Joe Maddon thought maybe he could get a run or two out of that inning, but it didn’t happen, and all it meant was that David Bote wasn’t available to pinch hit later in the game.

The Cubs broke through against Zach Davies in the sixth. Anthony Rizzo reached on an error and Javier Baez singled. Kyle Schwarber hit into a double play, but Willson Contreras put the Cubs on the board [VIDEO].

Willson’s third of the year made it 4-2.

And then the Cubs bullpen... actually did good work. Tyler Chatwood, Kyle Ryan and Allen Webster combined for four scoreless innings, allowing two hits, walking two and striking out six. The two walks were both by Chatwood, but they did not cause any further Brewers scoring. So... yay? Unfortunately, Cubs pitchers as a whole walked three in this game (one by Hendricks), so there’s still been only one Cubs game this year where the staff walked fewer than three opposing hitters (Opening Day, where only two Rangers drew walks).

The Cubs got two men on base in the seventh on a walk to Jason Heyward and single by Ben Zobrist, which brought Josh Hader into the game. Hader has been nearly unhittable so far this season, so I suppose it’s somewhat of a badge of honor that only three of Hader’s eight outs were on strikeouts. Badges of honor, though, do not win baseball games, and Hader did retire all eight Cubs he faced.

You know, if the Cubs had lost a game like this after having a more “normal” start to the road trip — say, 4-4 instead of 2-6 — I don’t think it would be taken as hard as this. But after winning Saturday night, it would have been really nice to take this one and come to Wrigley Field for Monday’s home opener on a high note.

But it didn’t happen, and the Cubs will simply have to deal with digging themselves out of a very deep hole. I pointed out the team run differentials earlier Sunday, and now the Brewers are +2 and the Cubs are -9. That’s not a huge difference, even this early in the season, and they don’t really match records of 8-2 (Brewers) and 2-7 (Cubs).

Weird random fact from today’s game:

I am reminded, after this series, of the first series these teams played in Wrigley Field last year, a four-game set toward the end of April. The Cubs swept the Brewers, shutting them out three times, outscoring them 9-2. Neither team was in first place at the time... the Pirates were. And you know where they finished. (In fact, not one of the teams in first place on the day of the final game of that series made the postseason in 2018.)

That series didn’t set the tone for last year and I don’t think this one has set any tone for 2019, either. We still have 153 games to go, and a Cubs winning streak could begin as soon as Monday, when they will return to Wrigley Field to face the Pirates in this year’s home opener. Jon Lester will start for the Cubs and Jameson Taillon will go for the Pirates. Game time Monday is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via ABC7 Chicago, their first broadcast of the year. MLB Network will carry this game outside the Cubs and Pirates markets.

Hang in there. Long way to go.