The Cubs won a key game in September against an important division foe, but I can’t help but feel a twinge of ‘please like my sport’z with the NFL’s annual dominance of the American sports landscape beginning once again. The Cubs played the Brewers on the same night as the Bears and Packers for the first time since 2014, and I am guessing more than a few turned in to watch a game in which the Cubs scored as much as both teams through the first three quarters. The expanded rosters helped make the Cubs game last nearly as long as the football game despite starting an hour earlier, but good things come to those who wait with the Cubs earning win number 76 on the season. And the Cubs suddenly can’t lose on the road.
The Cubs had two runners on and two outs without putting a ball in play against Chase Anderson in the first inning. Willson Contreras ripped a two out double to score leadoff hitter Ben Zobrist for the game’s first run. The next seven batters in the ballgame between the Cubs and Brewers were retired with the Cubs hanging onto a 1-0 edge into the bottom of the second.
Ryan Braun broke the streak up by bouncing a groundball up the middle for the Brewers first base runner. Manny Pina advanced Braun to second on a groundout, but Hernan Perez hit a hanger out of the ballpark to flip the score. Jose Quintana seemed to lock back in retiring the next two Brewers to keep the score at 2-1.
Ben Zobrist and Kris Bryant each singled in the third inning against Chase Anderson, but a double play ball and a groundout kept the Cubs from tying the game. An error by Kris Bryant allowed Chase Anderson to reach first to lead off the bottom of the third. Lorenzo Cain hit a sharp single to really put the Brewers in business with no outs. Q punched out Yasmani Grandal for the first out. Christian Yelich bounced into a fielder’s choice for the second out, but Quintana lost Braun to a base on balls to load the bases. Manny Pina flew out to end the inning with the Cubs still down just one.
That wouldn’t remain the case for very long with Willson Contreras blasted a fourth inning leadoff homer to tie the game. The currently hot hitting Kyle Schwarber smacked a double immediately afterwards but Russell, Jason Heyward and Q made outs to keep the score level at two heading into the bottom half. Q looked to have made two quick outs, but an Addison Russell throwing error resulted in Orlando Arcia standing on second with one out instead of bases empty and no outs. Q bailed out his teammates once again by punching out Cory Spangenberg and then pinch hitter David Freitas.
Former Cubs farmhand Jay Jackson took over in the top of the fifth inning. Ben Zobrist drew his third walk since returning from the restricted list to start the frame. Castellanos bounced a single through the left side of the infield to create yet another scoring chance. Jackson punched out Kris Bryant swinging badly over the top of a low and away slider. Rizzo pulled a ball down the first base line that ricocheted off of the wall to turn into a bases clearing double. Jackson was able to record one more out but he walked Kyle Schwarber intentionally and then absolutely drilled Addison Russell on a 2-2 pitch. Jason Heyward had to face the only man who thinks Steve Cishek should stop taking it so easy. Alex Claudio punched out Heyward for the 31st straight at bat to end without a base hit.
The lead was short lived. Cain hit a single back up the middle to start the inning and Grandal hit a homer to dead center on a high fastball to tie the game before an out was recorded in the frame. Q retired Yelich for a third time and then worked around a two out walk to Tyler Austin and wild pitch to leave the game with the score level at four now.
Matt Albers was the next in a long line of pitchers to see the field in this critical Central division showdown. David Bote pinch hit for Q and reached on a busted bat infield single. Zobrist then hit a clean single into right. Albers struck out Castellanos but walked Kris Bryant to load the bases. Drew Pomeranz was summoned to face Anthony Rizzo and the lefty on lefty matchup produced a shallow fly ball that was deep enough to score the go ahead run. On the play Zobrist strangely wandered too far off second and Yelich could have thrown to second for an easy inning ending double play. Instead Bote’s run scored and that would become a much bigger play in a few moments. Willson Contreras hit an even softer infield single to keep the inning alive. Kyle Schwarber then absolutely murdered a ball for his second grand slam this season. The ball was such a no doubter that Christian Yelich remained firmly planted in his spot the entire, long flight of the ball.
Brad Wieck took over in the bottom of the sixth. He struck out Orlando Arcia, but then he yielded the third homer to the Brewers with Cory Spangenberg making it a 9-5 ball game. Wieck retired the next four batters to preserve the Cubs advantage. Jimmy Nelson took over and the Cubs managed a bunch of traffic over two scoreless frames. Jason Heyward led off the seventh inning with a seeing eye single and Willson Contreras eighth inning almost two out triple were the highlights.
Wieck pushed the game to the bottom of the seventh with two outs before being relieved for David Phelps. The righty walked Ryan Braun and was promptly removed when Eric Thames was announced as a pinch hitter next. Kyle Ryan walked Thames, but a Perez fielder’s choice ended the seventh. Ryan pitched a clean eighth inning to send the 9-5 game to the ninth inning.
David Bote launched a two out solo shot to extend the Cubs run total to ten and at least the Cubs offense could tie the Packers tonight. Derek Holland was given the ninth with the five run edge. He allowed one base runner helping to bulk up the Cubs run differential numbers for a night.
The Brewers are Superintendent Chalmers. Santa’s Little Helper is the Hernan Perez and Grandal go ahead blasts. Willie is Willy.