Cubs

Who? Milwaukee’s Chase Anderson almost no-hits Cubs

Who? Milwaukee’s Chase Anderson almost no-hits Cubs

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.”

As he decides what's next, it's clear Ben Zobrist has something left in the tank

As he decides what's next, it's clear Ben Zobrist has something left in the tank

When Ben Zobrist rejoined the Cubs active roster on Sept. 1, it was fair to wonder how much he could provide offensively. After all, he spent the previous four months on the restricted list while tending to a family matter, last playing a big-league game on May 6.

Zobrist did no baseball activities from May to mid-July, only working out to stay in shape. Although he eventually ramped things up, he played in just 12 minor league rehab games in August before returning to the Cubs, a small number compared to the length of his absence.

Even Zobrist admitted upon his big-league return that his timing at the plate wasn’t where he wanted it to be. And yet, what he did in September was nothing short of impressive. In 21 games, he posted a .284/.377/.388 slash line, performing at a level many couldn’t have expected, considering the circumstances.

Zobrist's impact on the Cubs' lineup goes beyond what you see in the box score, however. Not only is he a switch hitter with some pop, but he has a keen eye for the strike zone and frequently puts together professional at-bats.

On a Cubs team that tends to expand the zone, Zobrist’s presence mattered. In his second game back, for example, he went 3-for-3 with two walks, helping the Cubs beat the Brewers 10-5. After the game, Brewers starter Chase Anderson pointed out how different the Cubs' lineup looks with Zobrist in it.

"They play the matchups really well and Zobrist makes that team so much better," Anderson said on Sept. 5. "Just bringing his presence to the top of the lineup, it changes their dynamic a little bit."

Where Zobrist stands entering 2020, though, is currently unclear.

Zobrist is set to hit free agency after the World Series and will turn 39 next May. Therefore, it’s possible that he’s played his last game in the big leagues, as he has little, if anything, left to prove at this stage in his career.

Ahead of the Cubs’ season finale on Sept. 29, Zobrist told reporters in St. Louis that he hasn’t thought about how much time he’ll take before deciding what’s next for him. His family situation will obviously play a big role in his decision, but if September showed anything, it's that he still has something left in the tank.

“I’m 38 but I got that feeling all over again,” Zobrist said following the Cubs’ season finale, a 9-0 loss to the Cardinals in which he pitched a scoreless inning. “Just really fun, you know? It’s a fun game. Sometimes you don’t come out on the winning end, but you still gotta have fun with it and enjoy it. I enjoyed it today."

The Cubs roster is expected to undergo changes this offseason, with center field, second base and the leadoff spot being just a few areas the team will look to address. The latter two spots became revolving doors during Zobrist’s absence, as the Cubs struggled to replace what he brought offensively.

Zobrist is past the point in his career of being an everyday player. However, he still could be a useful asset for the Cubs in a supporting role, bringing his veteran approach to the lineup when he plays while still offering an experienced voice in the clubhouse.

“I take a lot of joy in that role, just being a supporting guy and being a part of winning clubs and part of winning atmospheres and cultures,” Zobrist said on Sept. 29. “The Chicago Cubs have been that since I’ve been around. This year we didn’t make the playoffs — we still have a winning record — (but) the kind of relationships that are built here and the culture that’s been built here is definitely a winning one.”

After the Cubs announced that they wouldn’t retain Joe Maddon for 2020, Zobrist acknowledged that more changes were likely coming in the offseason. Only time will tell what that means for the veteran utilityman — should he continue playing.

Whether he retires or joins a different team for 2020, though, Zobrist will look back on his four seasons with the Cubs fondly.

“(They’re) just the most passionate fans I’ve ever met,” he said of Cubs fans. “They’re very loyal, very passionate and it’s been such a pleasure to be a part of that team that beat the curse back in ’16, so I feel that still, when I see Cubs fans, there’s a lot of them that hug me and thank me for being a part of that.

“I’ll always look back at [my] time here — I don’t know what’s going to happen in the offseason — but look back at these four years and [be] very grateful to be able to be part of a group like this and be able to do what we did while I was here.”

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Cubs Talk Podcast: An ode to Joe Maddon and looking to the next era

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USA Today

Cubs Talk Podcast: An ode to Joe Maddon and looking to the next era

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Tony Andracki, Kelly Crull, Scott Changnon and Jeff Nelson give us their memories of Joe Maddon's time with the Cubs and discuss David Ross and Joe Espada's candidacy to be the next manager.

01:30 Kelly's memories of Joe from the perspective of a reporter

06:00 Going back to Hazleton with Joe

07:45 Joe's legacy as manager of the Cubs

16:00 How Joe impacted Javy Baez' career

18:00 David Ross and Joe Espada may be the leaders to replace Joe Maddon.

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

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Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.