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Brewers 3, Cubs 1: A battle of two bullpens

Justin Steele and Brandon Woodruff pitched a tight matchup for six innings... but the Cubs’ pen couldn’t hold the lead.

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Today, the complaint department is open.

Here’s mine: Why is it, that when an opposing hitter is literally trying to make an out, the Cubs pitcher can’t throw strikes?

That’s what happened to Javier Assad in the eighth inning after a leadoff single. Garrett Mitchell is trying to sacrifice the runner up a base — and honestly, we don’t see many sac bunts in baseball anymore. (Entering today, this year, there had been two. Total.)

Assad’s failure to allow Mitchell to make an out wound up leading to an RBI single by old Cubs nemesis Jesse Winker, and then a ball dinked into short right field that Miles Mastrobuoni couldn’t catch up to for a two-run hit by William Contreras, and that was enough for the Brewers to defeat the Cubs 3-1. (Does Seiya Suzuki make that catch? Maybe.)

It’s really a shame, because up to then, Justin Steele had thrown six really good innings and Assad, in fact, was good in his first inning of relief in the seventh.

Steele was helped out by some really good defense. First, his own play at first base [VIDEO].

Then, this nice play by Dansby Swanson and Eric Hosmer [VIDEO].

Swanson had also started an inning-ending double play in the first. Steele walked the first batter he faced and seemed a bit shaky, but appeared to settle down after that double play.

The Cubs, meanwhile, didn’t do much against Brandon Woodruff, either. They had just two hits through two out in the fifth. That’s when Ian Happ somehow hit one into the bleachers [VIDEO].

This is about the only way anyone could have hit a ball out of the yard today:

Check out this cool animated look at Happ’s homer [VIDEO].

The low launch angle (and lack of height) did it. The wind wasn’t blowing in from right field, which also helped, but that’s about the only way to hit a home run on this frigid afternoon.

For a while it appeared that run might be enough, until Assad just lost the strike zone in the eighth inning.

The Cubs did get the tying run on base in the ninth off Devin Williams (and one of those hits, by Happ, literally off Williams’ body), but Cody Bellinger hit into a double play and Mastrobuoni struck out to end it.

There were still positives out of this game, notably Steele’s excellent outing and some really good defense. Those are things that will help the Cubs win some baseball games this year.

Now, about the weather. Forecasts had rain/snow clearing by early afternoon, which it did — a few sprinkles after the gates open but nothing once the game began. But the game-time temperature Saturday (39°) and wind speed (23 miles per hour) have been matched only seven other times in Wrigley Field history, per baseball-reference:

Rk Team Date Temperature Wind_speed Opp Result
1 CHC 2018-04-14 38 24 ATL W 14-10
2 CHC 2014-04-04 38 23 PHI L 2-7
3 CHC 2013-04-09 39 23 MIL W 6-3
4 CHC 2005-04-23 36 25 PIT L 3-4
5 CHC 1994-04-05 35 25 NYM L 2-6
6 CHC 1993-04-20 36 26 HOU W 2-1
7 CHC 1990-04-10 37 30 PHI W 2-1
Provided by View Stathead Tool Used
Generated 4/1/2023.

A note that this data is not necessarily complete, because bb-ref doesn’t have weather data for every game. But I feel confident this was one of the worst weather days in Wrigley history — and you’ll certainly remember the first game on this list, the 2018 comeback win over the Braves. Today was like that day except without the rain.

Here’s an interesting note about today’s game, from BCB’s own JohnW53:

The Cubs have set a Modern Era team record (since 1900) for most innings at the start of a season without allowing a run, 16.

Their previous best was 14⅓, in 2016. That ended when Jon Lester got an out, then gave up a double and an RBI single at Anaheim.

16 teams have started the season with back-to-back shutouts, most recently the Giants, in 2018.

They became the fourth team to do it twice, in different seasons, after the Red Sox, Indians and Dodgers.

The 1963 Cardinals and 2016 Dodgers had three straight shutouts to start their seasons, the most by any team in any season.

So that’s good — and I do think that speaks to the sort of quality starting pitching this team does have. There’s still work to be done on the bullpen, though.

Sunday, the Cubs still have a chance at a series win. Jameson Taillon will make his Cubs debut and he’ll face Milwaukee lefthander Eric Lauer. Game time is again 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.