Brewers outlast Cubs in series finale


Brewers outlast Cubs in series finale

The Cubs got more offense Sunday, but it still wasn't enough to pull out the victory.

The Brewers (7-18) set the tone early again and then put the Cubs (13-10) away in the eighth inning en route to a 5-3 victory in front of 33,398 fans at Wrigley Field.

The Brewers scored solo runs in the second, third and fourth innings before breaking a 3-3 tie in the eighth.

"Gotta set the tone better early," Cubs starter Jason Hammel said. "The first inning was nice. But single runs in the next three innings kinda dampens the mood a bit. I kept us in it, but it could've been a lot better."

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Hammel ended up with the minimum requirements for a quality start, tossing six innings and allowing three earned runs on five hits and a walk while striking out four. He admitted he didn't have a good feel for the ball Sunday as he's dealing with a nail/blister issue on his pitching hand.

Cubs reliever Pedro Strop had a rough eighth inning, giving up a double and a bunt base hit before plunking Jean Segura on the forehead with a high fastball in a scary moment on the field.

Play was halted for a few minutes as the Brewers tended to Segura, who initially tried to stay in the game before calling time and pulling himself off first base for a pinch-runner.

"Definitely a scary moment," Cubs catcher Miguel Montero said. "It really scared me. I went down with [Segura] to see how he was, but I just couldn't say anything, so I just moved to the side and called the trainers."

Montero said he thought Segura's helmet broke as he saw a piece of plastic fly off immediately.

Strop was shaken up, but said he had been in touch with the Cubs and Brewers training staffs and planned to reach out to Segura.

Strop was given some time to breathe and get back to the task at hand when play resumed, getting Ryan Braun to bounce into a 5-2-3 double play.

Maddon called for Strop to intentially walk lefty Adam Lind to load the bases for former Cub Aramis Ramirez, who had already homered in the game. Ramirez fisted a 95 mph fastball into left field for a two-run, game-winning single.

"It's a better matchup," Maddon said of the choice between pitching to Ramirez or Lind. "It's just one of those things under the category of the right thing to do, but it didn't work.

"That doesn't mean it was wrong' it just didn't work out at that time. I'll take Stroppy in that matchup. It's just an unfortunate moment."

Ramirez agreed that Maddon made the correct call.

"It’s the right move," Ramirez said. "Lind has been hitting hard all year. The guy's hitting over .300 and I’m hitting .200."

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

The Cubs picked up a run in the bottom of the second on a sacrifice fly from pitcher Jason Hammel. They tied the game in the fifth thanks to some shoddy fielding by the Brewers that led to an Anthony Rizzo RBI triple and Kris Bryant RBI double.

The Cubs had scored just three runs in 31 innings prior to their second-inning tally.

[MORE - Cubs: Kris Bryant keeping his head up despite recent struggles]

This is the first series the Cubs have lost since April 17-19 against the Padres at Wrigley Field. It's also the first series the Brewers have won all season.

"They got a couple important pieces back in [Carlos] Gomez and Ramriez, but it's Major League Baseball," Hammel said. "There are good teams. You can't keep a team down long.

"Even some of the teams that are struggling the most can find a good game or two here or there. We've all been through it. Pleased we were able to come back and make a game of it, but to get where we want to be, we obviously need to win these games."

The Cubs head to St. Louis for a four-game series with the Cardinals beginning Monday night on Comcast SportsNet.

It might have been just another dinger in homer-happy All-Star Game, but Willson Contreras will remember it forever

It might have been just another dinger in homer-happy All-Star Game, but Willson Contreras will remember it forever

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Willson Contreras’ third-inning home run might not have ended up standing out too much in an All-Star Game featuring a jaw-dropping and record-shattering 10 dingers.

But, obviously, it will always stand out to the guy who hit it.

“I enjoyed every single second that I spent out there.”

Remarkably, Contreras repeated his feat from two seasons ago, when he hit his first big league homer on the first big league pitch he ever saw. Ditto on Tuesday night at Nationals Park, when he launched the first pitch he saw as an All Star out over the wall in left field.

“When I hit the ball and thought it was gone, I went back to 2016, playing in Chicago. It was the same thing, first pitch for a homer,” Contreras, all smiles, said following the American League’s 8-6 victory. “I’m really blessed with these kinds of situations. Those moments, they’re going to be history and they’re going to be in my mind and my heart.”

Contreras’ long ball was the highlight of the evening for fans watching back home in Chicago. Javy Baez got a hit in his first All-Star at-bat but was outdone by his teammate. White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu was hitless in his two trips to the plate.

And while it will be a highlight on this night for Cubs fans, it will be a highlight forever for Contreras, who enjoyed the heck out of his first All-Star experience.

“‘I did it, I did it,’” he said when asked what was going through his head. “I knew it was something special. And I wasn’t trying to do too much because these guys are nasty, throwing 98 in the first inning. I just tried to get the hit out.”

The nasty guy he went deep against was Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell, whose 2.27 ERA on the season made him a very worthy inclusion on the AL roster. But Contreras was more impressed with the guy who started the game for the National League, raving about Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer after the game.

“He was great, man. Great stuff, he gets so into the game,” Contreras said. “I would like to have him one day on my team or play with him for a few years. That guy is amazing.”

That’s not the current Nationals star Cubs fans are dreaming about, Willy, but point taken.

But it wasn’t Snell or Scherzer or even Baez or Jon Lester, also in the NL dugout, who Contreras was thinking about the most during his home run trot. Instead, Contreras was thinking about his grandfather, Ernesto, who passed away a few years ago.

“My grandpa, he died in 2015,” Contreras said. “I grew up with him.

“He didn’t play ball. But I feel like every time I go out there and step into the box, he’s at my back. It just feels amazing when you hit a homer or do something special, look at the sky and you know that he’s there smiling somewhere.”

It all made for a pretty incredible night for Contreras, who has officially and loudly taken his place among baseball’s best on the game’s biggest stage.

The only thing that was missing? The ball.

Yeah, Contreras didn’t get the ball, not that he really expected to. But if you’ve got it, he wants it.

“I don’t think they’re giving it back,” he said with a grin.

We’ll see. Social media’s a powerful tool. So reach out.

Manny Machado as a Dodger creates a formidable foe out west for the Cubs

Manny Machado as a Dodger creates a formidable foe out west for the Cubs

Well, it's finally happening, or at least it's going to happen. The Athletics' Ken Rosenthal reported during the MLB All-Star game that the Baltimore Orioles had agreed to officially move their franchise player Manny Machado. Neither team has confirmed anything at this time, but the deal has reportedly been as close to a done deal for the last day or so, and it would seem Machado is destined for finish his 2018 campaign in Hollywood. 

Of course, with this addition, the reigning National League champions look primed for another deep postseason run. Though, the club is clinging to a half-game lead in the NL West, with Machado in tow the Dodgers are right with the Cubs and Brewers as the elite squads in the National League. It could be argued the Dodgers didn't necessarily 'need' Machado, with an offense that was already in the top 10 in runs scored, but Machado might be the perfect addition for the Dodgers. 

After losing their young star shortstop Corey Seager for the season with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, the Dodgers were in need of a more permanent solution at shortstop. And despite Machado's defensive metrics showing a steep decline in his glove at shortstop, the Dodgers will welcome his robust slash line of .315/.387/.575 while ignoring any shortcomings on defense. 

But what this means for the Cubs, who are only two games off the 2016 World Series club pace, is the path to another championship will likely require another run-in with the Dodgers. The club's biggest threat has been at this point the Brewers, but it's not hard to envision the Dodgers distancing themselves as the clear favorites in the National League with Machado in the heart of the order.

The good news for the Chicago is at least Machado didn't end up in Milwaukee, but that also could mean the Brewers make a more concerted effort to acquire pitching before the July 30th deadline. The Cubs will also see the return of Yu Darvish, who despite only managing to win one game this season in a Cubs uniform, will be a massive upgrade over the scuffling Tyler Chatwood. If the Cubs pitching can start producing like many expected them to before the start of 2018, and guys like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant start to hit alongside All-Stars Javier Baez and Willson Contreras, it's not hard to imagine the Cubs separating themselves from the pack in the 2nd half of season. 

The Dodgers are no strangers to blockbuster deadline deals, acquiring Yu Darvish in a similar three-month rental situation, but the Cubs getting a bat like Rizzo right and an arm like Darvish healthy would be better than any deal Theo Epstein could make to improve this team. And if it's not enough, the Cubs have a solid track record of grabbing former Dodger rentals in the off-season. The push for the playoffs starts Thursday for the north-siders.