Bryant powers Cubs to victory in rubber match versus Brewers

by - Senior Writer -
Kris Bryant went yard on Sunday for the 20th time this season, making him just the fourth Cub to compile three 20-homer seasons before his 25th birthday. Photo Credit: Benny Sieu - USA Today Sports
Kris Bryant went yard on Sunday for the 20th time this season, making him just the fourth Cub to compile three 20-homer seasons before his 25th birthday. Photo Credit: Benny Sieu - USA Today Sports

MILWAUKEE – Led by a rejuvenated John Lackey on the hill and a hot-hitting Kris Bryant at the dish, the Chicago Cubs (56-48) topped the Milwaukee Brewers (55-52) 4-2 on Sunday. Aided by six quality innings from Lackey, the Cubs' batting order came alive in the second half of the matchup, enabling Chicago to win the game and thereby take two out of three on the road versus divisional foe Milwaukee.

The first half of Sunday's contest featured dominant pitching, as the innings were short, and the strikeouts were aplenty. Lackey continued his recent turnaround by going against the trend of his season and actually pitching well early on in the game. Lackey found himself in a bit of a jam in the second inning, with the Brewers sporting men on first and third with one out. However, Lackey remained calm and was able to successfully strand both runners.

As for Milwaukee, starting hurler Zach Davies was stellar early on, too, allowing only a couple of hits through five. Known for producing quality starts against the Cubs, Davies experienced one uncharacteristically bad inning that incited the Chicago offense and ultimately led to a defeat for the Brewers.

Scoring two runs by way of a two-out rally, the Cubs were sparked by left fielder Jon Jay in the top of the sixth, as he singled and advanced to third soon after that on a double to left by Bryant. Jay and Bryant were key components of Chicago's victory, with both sluggers going 2-4 and scoring one and two runs, respectively.

Following the double by Bryant, catcher Willson Contreras drove in Jay for the first run of the afternoon, hitting a swinging bunt toward shortstop and beating out the throw at first after Davies made an athletic play to corral the baseball behind the mound. Chicago shortstop Addison Russell knocked in the Cubs' second run in the ensuing at-bat on a single to center that brought home Bryant.

After a hard-fought top half of the sixth that resulted in two runs being added to the scoreboard for the Cubs, Brewers right fielder Domingo Santana effectively made it moot with one swing of the bat, powering a home run to right in the bottom half of the sixth. A two-run shot, Santana's homer scored left fielder Ryan Braun, who led off the inning with a single. Déjà vu nearly came to fruition on the round-tripper, as Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward, who robbed a Milwaukee home run on Friday, came within a hair of robbing another one, with the Santana long ball just missing the top of Heyward's glove and clearing the top of the wall.

Home runs played a major role in the latter half of the ballgame, with three in total occurring in the last three and a half innings. Rookie Cubs catcher Victor Caratini, who actually manned first base today in place of Anthony Rizzo, hit his first career homer in the top of the seventh, smashing one beyond center field to put the Cubs up 3-2. Caratini's home run proved to be the winning hit for Chicago and the losing one for Davies, who earned the loss to fall to 12-5 after giving up three runs on seven hits in seven innings pitched.

Bryant provided the Cubs with an insurance run in the top of the eighth via a solo home run off of Brewers reliever Jacob Barnes that caromed off of the left-field foul pole. The dinger was Bryant's 20th of the year, making him a perfect three-for-three in his career for accumulating at least 20 home runs in a season, the first time that a Cubs player has ever done that in his first three seasons in the big leagues. Thereafter, Cubs relievers Hector Rondon and Wade Davis combined to shut down the Brew Crew in the eighth and ninth innings, securing the 4-2 win for Chicago and increasing the North Siders' lead atop the National League Central standings to 2.5 games over Milwaukee.

Lackey, who finished with a respectable stat line of five hits, two walks and two runs to his name, struck out seven on the afternoon and collected a win to earn his third consecutive victorious decision and move to 8-9 overall. On the back end, Davis garnered a save for his efforts, making him a perfect 22-22 in save attempts this season. As of now, Davis is the only pitcher in the majors with at least 10 save attempts who has not blown a single save.

With Sunday's triumph, the Cubs improved to 13-3 out of the All-Star break and made a major statement against a Brewers squad that was essentially the crown jewel of the NL Central prior to this past week. Playing incredibly well in all facets of the game right now, the Cubs appear poised to continue building upon their divisional lead and prove that they are indeed just as dangerous as the World Series-winning squad of last year.

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