MILWAUKEE – It looked like the Cubs would be taking batting practice on Tuesday night at Miller Park against Chase Anderson and a rebuilding Milwaukee Brewers team that’s holding auditions and playing for the future. Like The Cubs Way between 2012 and 2014.
Dexter Fowler led off the game by driving a ball out to the warning track in center field, the Cubs playing inside a climate-controlled dome instead of the swirling, in-your-face winds at Wrigley Field. Anderson then needed Kirk Nieuwenhuis to make a leaping catch at the left-center field wall to rob Kris Bryant, ending his first inning against the team with the best record in baseball.
But a funny thing happened to the Cubs on the way to their Ric Flair “Woos!” and postgame dance party: Anderson took a no-hitter into the eighth inning and finished one out away from a complete-game shutout.
Back-to-back homers from Jason Heyward and Bryant in the ninth inning became too little, too late for the Cubs in a 4-2 loss in front of 24,361 and a social-media audience that had to be wondering: Wait…who?
The trending topic became Anderson, a 28-year-old right-hander the Brewers acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Jean Segura trade and kept in the rotation with a 1-5 record and 6.11 ERA.
“He’s better than what the numbers show,” said Miguel Montero, who caught Anderson with the Diamondbacks and ended the perfect game by working an eight-pitch walk with one out in the sixth inning. “Honestly, I want to see him doing better, because I like the kid.
“It surprised me before the game that his ERA was (that high). He’s not an ace. And he’s not a No. 2 or a No. 3. But you know what, he was the best pitcher I had in 2014 over there.
“When he came up, he was consistent. He threw strikes. He had pretty good fastball command. He’s got a really good changeup and he had a good curveball. We knew when (to play off all that stuff).”
Ben Zobrist finally ended the no-hitter suspense leading off the eighth inning, blasting a double that sailed over Nieuwenhuis’ head and started a “Let’s go, Cubbies!” chant from the Chicago crowd.
Manager Joe Maddon pointed out how the Cubs (27-10) hit into defensive shifts, even in admitting that’s now part of the modern game. Heyward compared it to a “spring-training situation,” because the Cubs hadn’t seen much of Anderson. Maybe if Nieuwenhuis hadn’t shifted the momentum with that first-inning catch, the entire game would have played out differently for Milwaukee (17-22). But as Bryant said, “You got to give credit where credit’s due.”
“He was hitting his spots with every pitch,” said Heyward, the $184 million outfielder who waited 34 games before hitting his first home run in a Cubs uniform. “He got ahead with strike one and didn’t have to give in much.
“We also had a lot of loud outs, a lot of good swings, but he made good pitches with all his stuff.”
Anderson threw 110 pitches in a game that lasted two hours and 10 minutes, allowing those two home runs before Milwaukee closer Jeremy Jeffress struck out Anthony Rizzo swinging for the 27th out. If they didn’t before, the Cubs know something about Anderson now.
“That can happen, man,” Montero said. “It’s baseball. There are times where you’re going to face a guy and it looks like he doesn’t have anything. And then he’s going to go out and pitch a great game. Good for him.”