Cubs edge Brewers to regain MLB's best record


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<span style=Photo by Jennifer Stewart / USATODAY">
Photo by Jennifer Stewart / USATODAY

The Chicago Cubs (15-5) edged out the Milwaukee Brewers (8-12) by a score of 4-3 on Tuesday night in the opening game of a six-game homestand at Wrigley Field. A tight-knit matchup from start to finish, the Cubs were catalyzed by a stellar performance at the plate from shortstop Addison Russell, as he went 2-3 with two RBI.

Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson was practically flawless in the early innings, though, engaged in a pitching duel with Cubs hurler Kyle Hendricks. The Brewers put a run on the board first when, in the top of the second, third baseman Aaron Hill brought first baseman Chris Carter home with a sacrifice fly. The Cubs, meanwhile, were dormant with the bat to start the game, not garnering a hit until left fielder Kris Bryant doubled in the bottom of the fourth.

The bottom of the fifth, however, was when the Cubs came alive, stringing together a hard-fought inning that began with a Jorge Soler walk and culminated in a Jason Heyward groundout with two runners in scoring position. Center fielder Dexter Fowler was able to score Soler on a sacrifice fly, but Heyward, who went 0-5 on the night, grounding out with two outs and runners on spoiled what was otherwise a fantastic inning for the Cubs.

In the bottom half of the sixth, Russell crushed a pitch to deep right-center, using his trademark speed to turn it into a triple. Bryant and second baseman Ben Zobrist scored easily, and the Cubs, then up 3-1, looked to have all of the momentum.

The next inning, first baseman Anthony Rizzo came through with a clutch bloop single that scored Javier Baez, but, once again, the inning ended in anti-climactic fashion, as Zobrist grounded out with runners on second and third.

Leaving so many runners stranded nearly came back to bite the Cubs in the eighth, with reliever Pedro Strop undergoing a miserable outing in which two runs scored on a Ryan Braun double. After Travis Wood closed out the inning without the Cubs suffering any additional damage, the bottom of the eighth once again saw Heyward ground out with two outs and runners in scoring position. Thankfully for Chicago, closer Hector Rondon was able to seal the victory for the Cubs in the ninth.

Besides the glaring lack of production at the plate with runners in scoring position tonight, perhaps the Cubs’ biggest self-inflicted wound, which made this game far closer than it should have been, was Hendricks being pulled after only five innings. Manager Joe Maddon has made it clear at the start of the season that he does not want to leave his starters in for too long this early in the year. However, Hendricks was in a rhythm at the time he was replaced, and he did not even earn a win to show for his efforts.

Middle reliever Adam Warren was the winning pitcher, Nelson received the loss and Rondon collected the save, his fourth of the season. The Cubs and the Brewers will square off again Wednesday night, with Cubs ace Jake Arrieta returning to the mound for the first time since throwing his second career no-hitter last Thursday.

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