You have seen this before.
A pitcher sailing along while his team comes from behind and gets him the lead.
And then he gives up a hit on a pretty good pitch, and shortly after that one gets away and hits a batter.
Frustrated, the pitcher winds up hanging a breaking pitch and a three-run homer ensues.
Christian Yelich’s three-run homer off Alec Mills ruined an otherwise fine pitching performance and the Brewers ended the Cubs’ winning streak 4-3 Friday evening.
One bad pitch by Mills wasn’t the only reason for this loss. Frustratingly, the Cubs left the bases loaded twice, and had a real chance in the inning they took the lead to blow the game open and failed to do so. Fortunately, these sorts of things have been rare so far in the 2020 season, and I don’t think this is any sort of pattern emerging. That doesn’t make it any less frustrating.
There are a few things to note from this game, so let’s get to them.
Brandon Woodruff held the Cubs hitless until one out in the fifth, retiring 13 of the first 14 he faced (Anthony Rizzo had reached on an error in the fourth) while Milwaukee fashioned a 1-0 lead off Mills.
With one out in the fifth, the Cubs put together a really nice long sequence offense that gave them a 3-1 lead. Six straight Cubs reached base. The game was tied on three straight singles, the last of those an RBI hit by Jason Kipnis [VIDEO].
Right there is the reason the Cubs signed Kipnis. What a terrific at-bat. It began with six straight foul balls, then ball one, then another foul before Kipnis floated the ball into left field. He seems rejuvenated as a Cub. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind keeping him around for another year.
Nico Hoerner walked after that hit to load the bases, and another excellent at-bat by Ian Happ resulted in another walk to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead. Happ went down in the count 0-2, then took some very close pitches to draw the walk. Look at pitches 4 and 5 in particular, that’s excellent strike-zone judgment by Happ (although pitch 1 was likely not a strike):
That made it 3-1 and the bases were still loaded with one out. The Cubs had a chance to blow the game open and failed when Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber both struck out.
It wasn’t long after that when Yelich’s homer gave the Brewers the lead again, but the Cubs had their shot at regaining that lead in the eighth. Schwarber doubled with one out, and that brought Brewers closer Josh Hader into the game. That’s when David Ross made two pinch-hitting changes that were questioned by some. Steven Souza Jr. batted for Jason Heyward. Okay, Heyward’s probably not a good match for Hader, but why not Albert Almora Jr.? Almora might have a shot at poking a single to the outfield. Souza, though, had a nice at-bat and drew a walk and David Bote was hit by a pitch, loading the bases again.
The next scheduled hitter was Kipnis. Ross clearly didn’t want a lefthanded hitter to face Hader here, so he sent up Josh Phegley.
Why not Kris Bryant, who hadn’t started the two previous games due to a minor wrist injury?
Ross said of Bryant: "KB was down." Liked Phegley's ability to hit high fastballs with matchup with Hader.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 15, 2020
Phegley, who had never previously faced Hader, struck out.
Hey, it happens. And it’s unfortunate Bryant wasn’t available.
Craig Kimbrel was brought in to throw the ninth, the first time he had appeared in a meaningful game situation in 10 days. And... he wasn’t bad, actually. He did issue one walk, but retired the side without incident and threw 12 strikes in 20 pitches. Admit it: You cringed when he came into the game. But the Cubs need Kimbrel to be “good Kimbrel” to succeed this year, and Friday’s outing gave some hope. Overall, the Cubs pen threw three no-hit innings Friday with one walk and five strikeouts, probably their best combined performance so far in 2020. That’s a good sign.
The Cubs couldn’t do anything with Hader in the ninth. Rizzo drew a two-out walk, briefly keeping hope alive, but Baez (who had a terrible night, striking out four times) K’d to end it. The only good thing about Hader’s appearance is that he threw 35 pitches, by far his most this season (previous high: 19) and is likely unavailable today.
Hey, you can’t win ‘em all, and this was the Cubs’ first one-run loss of 2020 after four one-run wins. The Cubs still have a commanding lead in the NL Central and are 13-4. They’ll go after win number 14 Saturday afternoon — and note, this is a time change from the original schedule. Game time is 2:20 p.m. CT, moved up from 7:15 supposedly to avoid storms in the evening, though this forecast says “scattered showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 3 p.m.” Hopefully, they will scatter themselves away from Wrigley Field.
With Tyler Chatwood not available Friday due to minor back issues and Mills moved up to start in his place, Colin Rea will get his first Cubs start Saturday afternoon. Chatwood, hopefully, can go in one of the doubleheader games Monday:
Ross says the plan is for Colin Rea to start tomorrow. Will see how Tyler Chatwood feels, with hope that Monday is a possibility for his return.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 15, 2020
The Brewers will start Adrian Houser in this Saturday afternoon matchup. TV coverage Saturday is on Marquee Sports Network. Today’s game preview will post at 12:30 p.m. CT.