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Cubs 3, Brewers 2: The comeback Cubs do it again

This game had just about everything, and the best part: A Cubs win!

Mike Tauchman scores the eventual winning run in the eighth inning Wednesday afternoon
Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday’s game at Wrigley Field reminded me why I love baseball so much.

Gorgeous weather. Meaningful baseball between two rivals for a playoff spot. Back-and-forth, great pitching, lousy pitching, good fielding, bad fielding and... well, of course, maybe I wouldn’t have liked this game so much if the Cubs had lost.

But they didn’t. After blowing an eighth-inning lead, they came back in the bottom of the inning and scored the lead run, then held on in the ninth for a hard-fought 3-2 win over the Brewers, their second straight one-run win over the N.L. Central leaders.

Whew! Let’s rewind to the beginning.

Kyle Hendricks had a bit of a shaky first inning, but got out of it unscathed.

Then the Cubs put a pair on the board in the bottom of the inning. Mike Tauchman led off with a walk and Nico Hoerner was hit by a pitch.

Ian Happ’s double scored Tauchman [VIDEO].

Cody Bellinger struck out, but Dansby Swanson lofted this sacrifice fly to make it 2-0 [VIDEO].

I kept thinking during that inning, “You know, the Cubs would probably be well-advised to try to get that third runner in.” Foresight, apparently. Happ wound up stranded when Seiya Suzuki flied to right.

Hendricks threw a scoreless second, but then made a rare throwing error on a dribbler down the first-base line. Kyle is such a good fielder, but he didn’t have the right angle on the throw and in hindsight, I suspect he’d tell you that he should have not made the throw. The error put Christian Yelich on second base, where he scored on a single by William Contreras. Hendricks got out of the inning with no further damage, making that an unearned run.

And that’s where the game stayed until the eighth. The Cubs got a couple of runners on in the third, but otherwise had nothing after that through seven, at one point 14 straight Cubs were retired.

But the Brewers couldn’t score either. Hendricks finished six solid innings, allowing four hits, just the one unearned run, with one walk and six strikeouts, another very good outing for The Professor. He got helped out by his defense. Check out this play by Hoerner in the third [VIDEO]

Julian Merryweather threw a 1-2-3 seventh and retired Contreras to lead off the eighth, at which point Mark Leiter Jr. was summoned to face a couple of lefthanded hitters. He got the first one, Carlos Santana, on a foul popup. But then he allowed a single and walked a pair to load the bases. That’s rare for Leiter this year; he entered the game with just 17 walks among 228 batters faced, a very good 7.4 percent walk rate.

With the bases loaded and two out, Adbert Alzolay was called in for a four-out save opportunity.

Unfortunately, he did not succeed; he hit Mark Canha on an 0-1 sinker and that forced in the tying run. It was Alzolay’s first blown save after 18 straight successful converted save opportunities dating to July 5, the longest streak in the majors in that time span.

Alzolay finished the inning by getting Brice Turang to fly to center [VIDEO].

So, the Cubs needed to get that run back, and get it back they did with the help of some sketchy play by the Brewers. Christopher Morel led off with a ground ball to the usually reliable Willy Adames at short. Adames booted it for an error. Tauchman walked — this guy always works good at-bats — and Hoerner sacrificed the runners up a base. That was just the Cubs’ 12th sac bunt this year — and Hoerner’s first... period, in his professional career, his last one before today was in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2017.

WIth two on and one out, a contact play was put on and Happ grounded to first. Morel was thrown out easily at the plate.

Now there are Cubs on first and third, but with two out.

Bellinger was the next hitter, and here’s what happened [VIDEO].

Bellinger’s comebacker went off Joel Payamps’ foot and ricocheted to third, where Andruw Monasterio couldn’t throw Bellinger out. Tauchman scored and the Cubs led 3-2.

Thus it was up to Alzolay to finish things up. Monasterio was the leadoff hitter and grounded to Bellinger, who made a wild throw allowing him to reach. But that was immediately erased on a double play. One out to go. Then Alzolay walked Contreras, and the Brewers sent in pinch runner Tyrone Taylor.

Then this happened [VIDEO].

Taylor had taken off with the pitch, which made that play at second very, very close. But out he was, and the Cubs had a hard-fought, well-earned victory.

So here’s where things stand as we head into September, with the Cubs having the final day of August tomorrow off. The win brought the Cubs to within three games of first place in the N.L. Central. Meatloafing this series is what I think we all were hoping for, and the Cubs did it. It also tied the season series between the Cubs and Brewers at five wins each. So, if a tiebreaker between the teams is needed, the team that wins the series in Milwaukee that will end the regular season will hold that tiebreaker.

The Cubs also moved a game closer to the Phillies in the top wild card spot, as the Angels came from behind to beat Philadelphia this afternoon. Thus the Cubs, in the second wild-card spot, trail the Phillies by three games.

The Reds and Giants are playing in San Francisco at this writing. The Reds are leading late, and a Reds win is probably better for the Cubs at this time, as they’d still be three games ahead of Cincinnati, but a Giants loss would put San Francisco two games behind the Cubs in the wild-card race.

Got all that? Okay, I have one fun fact about this win for you from BCB’s JohnW53:

The Cubs scored three runs on just three hits Wednesday afternoon.

They have done that 35 times since 1901, winning 16, losing 17 and tying 2.

But today’s win was only their sixth by 3-2 and just their second at home.

The only previous win at home was Sept. 19, 1944, against the Giants.

The Cubs trailed, 2-0, going to the bottom of the seventh. They loaded the bases on two singles and a walk. Two runs then scored when a ball went through the second baseman’s legs, leaving runners on first and third.

The next batter was pitcher Hy Vandenberg, who had entered the game in the second after the starter pulled a muscle. As Vandenberg grounded to the shortstop, the runner from third headed home and slide in ahead of the throw.

The Cubs’ other 3-2 wins on 3 hits were in 1907 at St. Louis (10 innings), 1910 at Cincinnati (five innings), 1967 at San Francisco and 2013 at Pittsburgh.

The Cubs will have a well-earned off day Thursday. They finish August with an 18-9 record and are now 29-15 since the All-Star break, the second-best record in the N.L. (Dodgers, 31-11). They’ll head to Cincinnati to begin a four-game series Friday with a split doubleheader, forced by a rainout back in April. Jordan Wicks is scheduled to make his second career start in the opener against Graham Ashcraft for the Reds. That game will be Friday at 12:10 p.m. CT. At this time no starters have been listed for the night game Friday, which will be at 5:40 p.m. CT. Both games will be on Marquee Sports Network.

And the Brewers will be playing the Phillies this weekend in Milwaukee. Who do you root for?

Ready for some September pennant race baseball? Let’s go!