Happ hit a milestone homer on Sunday (Quinn Harris - USA Today Sports)
Happ hit a milestone homer on Sunday (Quinn Harris - USA Today Sports)

Cubs can't complete sweep despite Happ reaching milestone


by - Senior Writer -

CHICAGO - There haven't been too many times over the past two seasons when the Chicago Cubs (52-68) could say they swept the Milwaukee Brewers (64-56), but that is what they were facing at Wrigley Field on Sunday.

With Justin Steele taking the ball against the big man Brandon Woodruff, the left-hander continued to deliver on the mound, and it is safe to say he has become the unquestioned ace of this staff for this season. Steele gave the Cubs six shutout innings with nine strikeouts and left the game holding a 2-0 lead. His ERA is 3.25 for the season, which has dropped to nearly 2.00 since the beginning of June.

Unfortunately, the bullpen let this one get away as Milwaukee not only scored twice to tie things up, but pushed across five runs over the final three innings, with most of them coming via the home run. That was the difference in the game for Milwaukee as they took down the Cubs 5-2.

With Steele pitching as well as he has, the Cubs haven't needed to score a ton of runs, and the left-hander came out on a mission by striking out the side in the first. That is the production you need when facing Woodruff, as he can silence any offense with any start. With two down in the first inning, Ian Happ gave the Cubs an early lead as his solo shot put them in front 1-0.

That homer was not only No. 13 for him on the season, but was a milestone homer for Happ as he now has 100 career homers. The Cubs continued to keep the pressure on in the first, with Seiya Suzuki and Franmil Reyes adding singles, but they couldn't push anything more across.

When you have an opportunity to score off of Woodruff early, you must do that, but when Steele had six strikeouts through two innings, the Cubs had a bit of leeway. Still leading 1-0 in the fourth, the Cubs played long ball again as Suzuki picked up his 10th homer to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead. That would be the game's final run for the Cubs offense, but it was looking to be enough at one point.

Not only did Steele get through six innings again, but he did so by keeping the Brewers offense in check and keeping them off the board with his nine strikeouts. The Brewers were fortunate enough to have Woodruff on the hill, but with the two homers allowed, he was on the short end of the stick until Brent Suter and the pen hit the field.

With Steele out of the game to begin the seventh, David Ross called on Mark Leiter Jr in hopes his recent stretch of great games continued. Although he allowed a leadoff single to Andrew McCutchen, Leiter was on the verge of tossing a scoreless frame as McCutchen was caught stealing by Yan Gomes. Five pitches later, it was Rowdy Tellez putting an end to the shutout bid as his homer made things 2-1.

That homer forced another call to the pen, where Brandon Hughes was next in for the Cubs. It didn't take long for the Brewers to tie things up as Hughes surrendered the game-tying home to Keston Hiura just two pitches into his at-bat, and just like that, Steele could not get the win while this was a brand new game.

The Brewers continued to keep the pressure on in the eighth, with Rowan Wick entering the game. Not only did Wick allow a leadoff single to Kolten Wong, but a pair of wild pitches, including one on ball four to Christian Yelich, allowed Wong to reach third. That doomed the Cubs in the end as Willy Adames picked up the game-winning sacrifice fly with the Brewers taking the lead 3-2.

Trailing for the first time in the ball game, the Cubs went down quietly in the eighth, with Brad Boxberger picking up a pair of strikeouts and sending things to the ninth inning. Hoping to keep things close, Kevin Castro walked Tellez with one down in the inning before allowing a second homer to Hiura to extend the Brewers lead 5-2.

Castro bounced back nicely to retire the next two hitters, but the damage was already done. Hoping for some late-game magic, Taylor Rodgers was on the mound in the ninth to close things out for the Brewers, with Suzuki picking up a one-out double to set things up for the offense. That double would go to waste as Reyes, and Nelson Velazquez flew out to end the game with the Brewers winning 5-2.

Suzuki had a perfect day at the plate, going 3-3 with a walk as he needed a massive game. Happ and Reyes picked up the other two hits for the Cubs, who were unable to do much offensively off Woodruff and company.

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