Defensive collapse by Brewers gives Bryant, Cubs big win

by - Senior Writer -
Kris Bryant kept the Cubs alive prior to the ninth inning rally by the Brewers. (Photo Credit: Benny Sieu - USA Today Sports)
Kris Bryant kept the Cubs alive prior to the ninth inning rally by the Brewers. (Photo Credit: Benny Sieu - USA Today Sports)

MILWAUKEE — Bailed out by a ninth-inning meltdown on the defensive end from the Milwaukee Brewers and a dominant showing by superstar slugger Kris Bryant, the Chicago Cubs tallied a road win on Saturday afternoon. Benefiting from two costly Milwaukee errors in the ninth inning, the Cubs used a four-run rally in the final inning to earn a 5-2 win.

Bryant shouldered practically the entire load of the Cubs' offense for most of the afternoon, picking up three hits and two walks in five at-bats. The Brewers were not so successful with the bats themselves, accruing just four hits overall. In a battle of right-handers, Yu Darvish of Chicago and Zach Davies of Milwaukee were outstanding at Miller Park, producing a throwback NL Central duel on the mound.

With a combined 17 strikeouts between them, Darvish and Davies pitched six marvelous innings, with each hurler giving up just one run. The first hit of the ballgame came in the fourth inning, as Bryant hustled down the line to earn an infield single. His hustling did not pay off, however, on a failed steal attempt soon after.

Marking his second home run in as many games, Brewers first baseman Eric Thames, who is quickly earning the reputation of Cub killer extraordinaire, crushed a dinger to right in the ensuing frame, ending Darvish's flawless stretch to start the contest.

Chicago was presented with a golden opportunity to even the score in the fifth, opening the inning with a single by Tommy La Stella and a double by Victor Caratini that placed runners on the corners. But the Cubs, who have been iffy with men in scoring position so far this season, wasted their chance. La Stella was thrown out at home on a grounder by right fielder Jason Heyward, and, following a walk of Javier Baez, Darvish and Ian Happ struck out and ground out, respectively.

Absent for the second straight game was Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who is battling back issues. Fortunately for Chicago, Bryant picked up the slack. Leading off the sixth with a sky ball to left, Bryant hit his 96th career home run, tying the matchup at 1-1 in the process.

Bryant's good deed for the Cubs was undone by the work of Chicago reliever Steve Cishek in the bottom of the eighth. Giving up what could have easily been the winning run, Cishek backed himself into a corner leading up to that by hitting a batter and then giving up a double to the Brewers' Eric Sogard with one out in the eighth. Prized offseason acquisition Lorenzo Cain next came through for the Brewers, bringing home catcher Jett Bandy on a sacrifice fly to right.

After leaving four runners stranded on base, including Bryant after he tripled with one out in the eighth, the Cubs finally produced with the pressure fully applied in the top of the ninth. Facing off against reliever Jacob Barnes, who filled in for injured Brewers closer Corey Knebel, the Cubs racked up, scoring four runs to take a 5-2 lead.

Caratini started the rally with one out via an infield single, and he took second on a throwing error by Milwaukee shortstop Orlando Arcia, who hit the game-winning single the night before, ironically making him the goat of the game for the Brewers a mere day after he played the role of hero. Following a walk by Heyward, Baez hit a grounder to third that could have resulted in a game-ending double play. However, Brewers third baseman Luke Shaw misplayed the ball, allowing all runners to reach safely.

Wily veteran Ben Zobrist stepped up to the plate in a pinch-hitting spot after that and came through in the clutch, hitting an RBI single in the area of first base that plated Addison Russsell, who pinch-ran for Caratini. Still in the game for some reason, Barnes next gave up a two-run single to Happ on a liner to center that scored Heyward and Baez, making the score 4-2 in favor of Chicago.

Following an intential walk of Bryant, adept bunter Jon Lester pinch-hit in the pitcher's spot in the batting order and laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt that scored Zobrist, putting the Cubs up 5-2.

A pitching change finally took place after the bunt, leading to an inning-ending popout by La Stella, begging the question of why Brewers skipper Craig Counsell left Barnes in the game for as he long as he did.

In the bottom of the ninth, Cubs closer Brandon Morrow sat down the Brewers' batters in short order, earning his first save as a Cub and securing the come-from-behind 5-2 win for the Cubs. With the final game of the series coming on Sunday, Chicago currently holds a 2-1 edge in the four-game divisional affair. Pedro Strop was credited with the win to move to 2-0 for the Cubs this season, while Barnes received the loss to drop to 0-1.

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