Brewers’ rally falls short as Cubs salvage series finale
MILWAUKEE — Two steps forward, one step back.
Curtis Granderson continued his favorable first impression with the Brewers on Wednesday night by hitting a pinch-hit, two-run home run, but Milwaukee fell short of the three-game sweep it needed against the NL Central Division-leading Chicago Cubs.
Defensive lapses contributed to a four-run Cubs rally in a fourth inning that began with Daniel Murphy’s home run, and Kyle Schwarber also went deep to send the Brewers to a 6-4 loss at Miller Park in the series finale.
“That was the inning. The home run to Murphy was on a 2-0 slider,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “There wasn’t much contact the first time through the order. He (Jhoulys Chacin) just had a tough inning. We gave them some extra outs.”
The Brewers won the series 2-1 but they wanted more. A win would have pushed them 19 games over .500 for the first time, and a sweep would have lifted them within two games of the Cubs (82-57) in the division with three more head-to-head matchups next week at Wrigley Field. Instead, Milwaukee fell four games back at 79-62.
The Brewers, who are off today before hosting the San Francisco Giants for a three-game series beginning Friday, still own the top stop in the NL wild card standings, a half-game ahead of the Cardinals, who won their own tense ballgame Wednesday night in Washington.
The Cubs broke their string of 16 scoreless innings against Chacin (14-6), Milwaukee’s right-hander, when Murphy led off the fourth with an opposite-field homer into the Brewers’ left-field bullpen.
Javier Baez followed with a single and his aggressive baserunning helped the Cubs extend their lead. He raced for third on a single by Anthony Rizzo, and when center fielder Lorenzo Cain’s throw sailed, Baez scored and Rizzo went to third on a second error by shortstop Orlando Arcia. Ben Zobrist doubled inside the right-field line to score Rizzo and give the Cubs a 3-0 lead.
A soft RBI single by Willson Contreras capped the four-run rally.
Jonathan Scoop’s bad-hop single drove home a run in the bottom of the inning, and the Brewers loaded the bases with two outs. Jose Quintana induced Arcia to hit a pop fly to shortstop to escape the jam.
Zobrist drove in his second run in the fifth with a two-out single, but Rizzo was thrown out at the plate trying to score from second base.
Schwarber homered into the second deck in right field in the sixth to make it 6-1.
Quintana allowed a leadoff single to Jesus Aguilar and a double to Ryan Braun in the sixth, but the Brewers managed just one run on a groundout by Schoop.
“We had a couple opportunities we didn’t cash in ... we settled for single runs instead of multiple runs in those innings,” Counsell said.
Quintana pitched 6⅔ strong innings, improving to 3-1 at Miller Park with the Cubs. Jesse Chavez replaced Quintana with two outs in the seventh and gave up an infield hit and a two-run homer to Granderson, pulling the Brewers to within 6-4.
The Cubs got through the eighth unscathed before Pedro Strop entered in the ninth. He walked Travis Shaw on four pitches and gave up a single to Christian Yelich, who was pinch-hitting.
After Eric Thames flied out to center, Cain grounded to third, where Kris Bryant stepped on the bag for the force and gunned to first for a potential game-ending double play.
Cain beat it out, but Strop fanned Granderson to end it.
Day off for Yelich
Yelich did not start based on his history against Quintana. Quintana has held Yelich 1-for-9 with a double.
“It was time. He needs a day off,” Counsell said before the game. “(Waiting until Friday against Giants left-hander Derek Holland) was certainly in the conversation, but we got to the point (Tuesday) night where he needs a day off.”
Yelich walked and hit a two-run double in Tuesday’s 11- 1 win over the Cubs to extend his hitting streak to 15 games and his on-base streak to 21 games, the NL’s longest active streak. Since the All-Star break, Yelich’s 198 weighted runs created plus, .479 weighted on-base average and 1.130 OPS entering Wednesday were all tops in the majors.
He extended his streak to 22 games on base with his single in the ninth.
“Look, this is a guy who has played every day. There’s not many guys playing every day like this,” Counsell said. “We just reached a point when he needs a day. ... Friday was a thought, but we just reached a day where it has to be today. He’ll be ready to go on Friday.”
Brewers right-hander Chase Anderson will open a three-game series against the Giants on Friday night at Miller Park. Opponents are batting .224 against him and he has allowed 28 home runs, tying for the most in the NL. Anderson (9-7, 3.96 ERA) defeated the Giants earlier this season in San Francisco, allowing just four hits and one run in six innings.