Seventh-inning swing lifts Cubs to victory over Brewers
|Sunday, July 24, 2016, 6:45 PM- -|
MILWAUKEE -- Thanks to one questionable pitching change, the Chicago Cubs were able to steal one from the divisional rival Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday. With Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester making his first career start at Miller Park, the lefty did not fare too well, giving up four runs in four innings pitched. On the flip side, though he was pulled after only 6.1 innings, Brewers starting pitcher Junior Guerra was fantastic on Sunday, only allowing one run to score. Claiming victory due to an epic seventh-inning swing, the Cubs eked out the win by a final score of 6-5.
Milwaukee shortstop Jonathan Villar jumpstarted the Brewers in the bottom of the first by drawing a walk and proceeding to steal both second and third, his 35th and 36th steals of the season. Cubs catcher David Ross was heavily victimized by way of the steal in Sunday’s game, giving up six in total. After Villar was brought in via a sacrifice fly to give the Brewers a 1-0 lead, left fielder Ryan Braun hit an infield single and stole second. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy then hit an infield single of his own, advancing Braun to third. First baseman Chris Carter then provided the Brewers with a 2-0 lead by singling to left and bringing Braun home.
The Cubs offered little offensive threat between the top of the second inning and the bottom of the fifth inning, when the Brewers doubled their lead to four runs. Braun, who was 2-4 on the day, hit a double toward the wall in right with a runner on first. Following a walk to load the bases, Lester was pulled from the game in favor of middle reliever Justin Grimm. Grimm struck out the only batter he faced, and Clayton Richard then relieved him. With only one out, Richard found himself in a jam upon entering, and he immediately suffered from it, as Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett brought in two runs with a single. Somehow, Richard escaped the inning without enabling any additional Milwaukee runners from crossing the plate, but the inflicted damage had put the Cubs into a deep hole.
The comeback commenced the very next inning, with Chicago second baseman Ben Zobrist, who was 2-3 in the game, brought home a run with a single to right, one of two RBI for Zobrist. But the true comeback began when Guerra was pulled from the game in the top of the seventh. Will Smith, the reliever who replaced him, proved to be far from the Fresh Prince of Milwaukee in his outing, watching four Chicago runs cross the plate during his time on the mound. Highlighted by two doubles from second baseman Tommy La Stella, who was an impressive 3-3, and first baseman Anthony Rizzo, respectively, the Cubs' comeback certainly was a team effort. Even after Smith departed the game, Zobrist added another run by singling to right-center. Down 4-1 at the inception of the seventh inning, the Cubs took a 6-4 lead into the eighth inning.
Despite giving up a solo home run to center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Cubs closer Hector Rondon was decent in the bottom of the ninth, getting three of the four batters whom he faced out and sealing the Cubs’ 6-5 victory over the Brewers. Nieuwenhuis’ home run was his third in two games.
In his Chicago debut, veteran reliever Joe Nathan, who was just called up to the big leagues, earned the win for his lone inning pitched. Although he backed himself into a corner in the bottom of the sixth, Nathan struck out three consecutive batters to end the inning and looked solid, especially considering that it was his first appearance with the Cubs. Needless to say, Smith was named the game’s loser.
Claiming two out of three in this series, the Cubs are now 6-3 out of the All-Star break. The Cubs (59-38) hold a seven-game lead atop the National League Central, and the Brewers (41-55) are 17.5 games behind them. The Cubs will now turn their attention to the Battle of Chicago, as they are set to engage in a four-game duel, with two games apiece at each team’s stadium, against the Chicago White Sox (48-50).