The Cubs took an early lead for what felt like the first time in 2018. Their starter pitched into the seventh inning. The Cubs extended their lead and managed to hang onto it. And yet it still was a game that felt in jeopardy more than a few times late.
Kyle Hendricks had it today. He had it far more than the 6 innings and 4 earned runs statline says. The results of the game certainly matter when it is one versus two matching up. The Cubs victory meant that they headed to Pittsburgh with the same margin of division lead, but the 1b top result was Kyle Hendricks looking like the Professor we know and love.
Kyle Hendricks struck out five of the first eight hitters he faced. Hendricks pitched through three just allowing a pair of singles as he kept the Brewers off the board. The Cubs offense clicked early in the first inning with some two out magic. It started of course with David Bote delivering a two out single. Anthony Rizzo than clobbered a two run bomb out of the cleanup spot. Junior Guerra pitched a clean second inning before remembering that he was Junior Guerra.
Báez was the Cubs new power leadoff hitter today, and he delivered with a one out triple in the third inning. Jason Heyward doubled to extend the Cubs lead to 3-2. Bote proved he was human with a fielder's choice for the second out of the inning. Rizzo hit into what should have been an inning ending ground out but an Eric Thames error kept the inning alive. Albert Almora Jr. provided one of the seven signs of the apocalypse by drawing a bases loading walk. With Kyle Schwarber at the plate, Guerra uncorked a wild pitch to make it a 4-0 Cubs lead.
Hendricks had one tough inning in the form of the fourth inning. After recording his sixth strikeout, Ryan Braun grounded out to make it seem like another low stress frame for the Professor. But Travis Shaw and Jonathan Schoop hit back to back doubles to put the Brewers on the board. Eric Thames pulled a single into right to halve the Cubs lead.
Guerra wouldn't manage to complete the fourth inning. Willson Contreras lead off the inning with a single and moved to second on Hendo's sacrifice bunt. Addison Russell was actually useful and singled to put the Cubs up 5-2. Russell moved into scoring position on another wild pitch. Jason Heyward singled with two outs to score Russell. David Bote single ended Guerra's afternoon. Dan Jennings took over and gave up a run scoring single to Anthony Rizzo. The Cubs now had what felt like a commanding 7-2 lead. Jennings walked Almora Jr., but retired Schwarber to end the inning.
Hendricks made it feel that way as he went into the seventh inning sitting in the mid 80s for pitches with a five run lead. The Brewers started the inning with a single and walk to chase Hendricks from the game. Carl Edwards Jr. was called on to be the Cubs mid-inning closer. Christian Yelich lined out hard for the first out. But he walked Lorenzo Cain to load the bases and a groundball single past Báez drove in the third Brewers run. A single into left field drove in the Brewers fourth run. Justin Wilson was the next Cubs pitcher and the latest Cub to be screwed on strike zone calls. Wilson had the first two strikes called balls before getting the bases loaded one out pop up. Steve Cishek entered the game and delivered an inning and third of clean ball to leave them loaded.
Albert Almora Jr. made it the final scoreline by answering with a leadoff homer in the bottom of the seventh. Pedro Strop was called on in the ninth inning to finish the game in a non-save spot. Strop was the finisher once again as he collected three outs. Christian Yelich hit a ball hard, but Ian Happ was able to snag the ball up against the wall. Lorenzo Cain was hit by a pitch in the next plate appearance. Mike Moustakas hit the ball hard into right, but Heyward snagged the ball with his usual relative ease. Hernán Pérez struck out swinging to end the game.
With the win, the Cubs have regained a three game lead in the NL Central. The lead is three. No more. No less.