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Cubs 4, Brewers 3: The Ian Happ game

The Cubs outfielder had the team’s only hits, but they were enough to win the game.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s how many times I was absolutely certain the Cubs would lose Friday night’s game:

  • When they didn’t get any hits for the first six innings
  • When the Brewers tied the game in the ninth and had the winning run in scoring position with one out
  • When the Brewers had the tying and winning runs in scoring position in the 10th inning with one out

But, amazingly enough, none of those things prevented the Cubs from a fascinating 4-3 win over the Brewers, and most of it was thanks to Ian Happ. Happ produced the Cubs’ only two hits of the game — both two-run homers, and that was enough for the win.

The teams matched zeroes for the first three innings, then Tyrone Taylor hit a solo home run off Justin Steele in the fourth. Steele threw really well until one out in the sixth, when... uh-oh [VIDEO].

Steele left the game with lower back stiffness, and here’s the postgame update:

Reading between the lines on David Ross’ comment, Steele was likely approaching a time when his innings were going to be limited anyway the rest of the year. The Cubs have an off day next week (Thursday) and Steele’s next start would be Wednesday in Toronto if they keep to the current schedule. Perhaps pushing him back to Friday in St. Louis would work if this isn’t a serious issue.

Anyway, Freddy Peralta didn’t allow the Cubs a hit for the first six innings, and in fact, just one Cub reached base during that time — Franmil Reyes drew a one-out walk in the second inning. I was somewhat surprised when Peralta didn’t come out for the seventh. He had thrown just 82 pitches.

That’s when the game started going the Cubs’ way. Nick Madrigal reached base on an error by Luis Urias and went to second on a ground out.

That’s when Happ broke up the no-hitter AND gave the Cubs the lead [VIDEO].

Brandon Hughes, who’s been so good lately, served up a leadoff homer to Rowdy Tellez in the ninth to tie the game. Mark Leiter Jr. relieved Hughes and got a ground ball, but Nico Hoerner booted it and Keston Hiura reached base. Then Urias walked, putting the potential winning run on second base with nobody out. But Leiter got Victor Caratini to fly to left for the first out, and Sean Newcomb entered the game and retired the next two Brewers to send the game to extras.

Willson Contreras began the 10th as the Manfred man, and Happ gave the Cubs the lead on the second pitch of the inning from Devin Williams [VIDEO].

Happ’s home run was the first-ever multi-run homer for a Cubs player leading off an extra inning (of course, that wouldn’t have been possible before the Manfred man rule).

The next three Cubs went down quietly and Manuel Rodriguez, just activated from the injured list Friday, got the save opportunity.

Rodriguez struck out Willy Adames, but Andrew McCutchen singled and Milwaukee’s Manfred man, Christian Yelich, took third. A single by Hunter Renfroe made it 4-3, and a wild pitch moved the runners up to second and third. Rodriguez then walked Tellez, which wound up setting up this game-ending play [VIDEO].

That was neat, and really heads-up by Nick Madrigal, and the Cubs had one of their wackier wins of the year.

This game was just the 27th in Cubs franchise history (since 1901) where they posted a win with two or fewer hits, the first since August 22, 2019 over the Giants (and just the fourth since 2000), the first ever in extra innings and the only one where a pair of two-run homers provided all the Cubs’ runs. Here’s the entire 27-game list, and it should be noted that the Cubs haven’t won a game where they had only one hit since September 6, 1937, although they did win a recent Spring Training game with just one hit March 15, 2015, the lone hit a two-run homer by Chris Denorfia.

The win improved the Cubs’ record in one-run games to 19-23, their record in extra-inning games to 7-11 (the 18 extra-inning games is the most by anyone in MLB this year), and clinched the season series over the Brewers, which the Cubs lead 10-7 with two games remaining.

This year’s Cubs aren’t going anywhere near the postseason, but they have played very good baseball over the last five weeks. Since July 17 they are 21-14. The five teams better than that over that span in the NL are all playoff contenders (Dodgers, Cardinals, Braves, Mets, Phillies). Jed Hoyer says he sees hints in this team of the way the 2014 Cubs played down the stretch:

The Cubs went 31-28 over the final two-plus months of that 2014 campaign and some positive momentum started to build in that span. Real optimism for the future.

“The overall record wasn’t impressive but the last couple months were impressive,” Hoyer said of 2014. “And it definitely gave us the confidence that what we were building on top of was starting to be real.”

I concur. Okay, Jed, now get to work getting some big-name players on this team for 2023 like Theo Epstein did for 2015.

In the meantime, the Cubs can put another series win in the books if they can win Saturday’s game in Milwaukee. Drew Smyly will start for the Cubs and Brandon Woodruff will get the call for the Brewers. Game time is 6:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.