The Cubs just needed to avoid disaster this weekend against the Brewers to have a very good chance to win their division. Alas said disaster was not avoided and now a crazy three week scramble for the playoffs begins.
Eric Thames opened the game beating out a dribbler down the third base line for a hit. Javy Baez made a nifty play broken-bat grounder from Ryan Braun, the broken bat hit the ball in the infield and took a weird hop, but Javy barehanded and got Braun. A single by Tommy La Stella was wasted in the bottom of the first.
The Cubs took the lead in the 2nd inning, Ian Happ walked against Zach Davies to begin things. He advanced to second on a Baez bunt and remained there when Jason Heyward struck out. Rene Rivera then ripped a line drive to right, it looked like Hernan Perez had it lined up, but misread it and it flew over his head for an RBI double.
The Brewers tied the game against Kyle Hendricks with a very old-school attack in the 4th. Braun bunted for a hit, even his bunting form is somehow annoying, and proceeded to steal second base. Travis Shaw walked and both men were bunted over by Perez. Stephen Vogt then grounded to Happ at second to tie the game.
Chicago had a big chance in the bottom of the 5th inning. Rivera singled to open the inning and was forced at second on a bunt by Hendricks. Jon Jay followed singling to left to put two on with one out. La Stella grounded one up the middle, Davies kicked the ball, which bounced perfectly to Neil Walker who started a 4-6-3 double play.
Milwaukee took quick advantage of the Cubs missed opportunity. Walker lived up to his name, drawing a walk to leadoff the 6th inning. Walks always seem to hurt the Professor and today was no different, Shaw hit a two-run homer through the wind into the basket in right making it 3-1 Brewers.
Anthony Rizzo and Baez singled in the bottom of the inning to create a first and third threat with two down. The Cubs came up short yet again this weekend, as Heyward hit a weak fly to right.
Willson Contreras made his return striking out in the 7th inning. Pedro Strop pitched a clean 7th inning on in relief of Hendricks. Carl Edwards gave up two singles in the 8th inning, but retired Vogt on a ground out to end the threat.
Wade Davis came on in the 9th inning, he walked Orlando Arcia and Thames to put two on with two outs, but struck out Manny Pina to escape the jam. Corey Knabel allowed an infield single to Heyward, but he got Alex Avila on strikes to complete the Brewers sweep. The Cubs divisional lead is now down to just two games.
The Cubs offense was awful in the three-game sweep, scoring a total of 3 runs. Other than Rene Rivera, no one had a really notable offensive performance on Sunday. Offenses for all teams run hot and cold over the course of a long season. This was the worst possible time for the offense to hit a wall, hopefully the return of Willson Contreras can help. Again a decent Hendricks outing (6 IP, 3 R, 4 H, 7 K, and 2 BB) was wasted by a total lack of support.
Hold On To Your Butts
This version of the Cubs has not had much difficulty clinching a playoff berth. The wild card in 2015 was wrapped up with over a week to play. The 2016 NL Central title was wrapped up in early September. The Northsiders had a chance to put the clamps on a third playoff appearance with similar ease with a good series against the Crew. Instead the worst case scenario, not only did Brewers sweep so did the Cardinals. Now, all three teams are within 2 games of first with a little less than 20 games to play. This race is going to the wire, as the section title implies it's going to be tense.
Last year the Cubs got the Mega Happy ending. If they aren't careful 2017 will get this ending.
#3-Rene Rivera: the big catcher had two hits including the only RBI of the game. Also he threw out Arcia trying to steal with the game tied in the 5th.
#2-Travis Shaw: the Brewers third baseman had the game winning two-run homer that just got out to right.
#1-Zach Davies: Davies dominated on Sunday going seven strong with only one run and only 7 hits. Frankly, if Perez reads Rivera's double correctly the game is a shutout.
Now the stretch run begins and the Cubs need to finish strong or miss the postseason.