The Cubs just barely fell short in a 4-3 loss to the Brewers Friday at Wrigley Field.
In the ninth inning, Cubs relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel stepped into the highest-pressure situation he’s been in, perhaps all season. And he delivered. Kimbrel struck out Avisail Garcia and Manny Piña for the first and third outs of a scoreless frame. He also walked Justin Smoak and got Ben Gamel to line out to second.
But the Cubs offense didn’t overcome the late one-run deficit.
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Here are takeaways from the game:
Patience is a virtue
Jason Kipnis fouled off seven pitches before driving in the Cubs’ first run of the night.
It was the bottom of the fifth inning, and Jason Heyward and David Bote had just recorded the Cubs’ first and second hits of the game. Runners stood on first and third with one out.
Kipnis fouled off the first two pitches he saw, a changeup and a fastball. Just like that, he was behind in the count and his margin for error had shrunk. But he battled off fastballs and changeups that peppered the strike zone, and even strayed out of it. He watched a curveball in the dirt.
And then finally, Kipnis got a solid piece of an inside pitch. The Cubs played video of the Northbrook native’s friends and family cheering up on the video board in left field.
After Kipnis hit the tying run home, the Cubs’ offense kept flowing. Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ drew back-to-back walks for Bote to score. Anthony Rizzo poked a changeup out to right-center field to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead and force a Brewers pitching change.
Freddy Peralta replaced starter Brandon Woodruff on the mound. Peralta struck out the next two batters to end the inning.
Not quite pitch perfect
Alec Mills wasn’t even supposed to be pitching Friday. But when the Cubs scratched Tyler Chatwood from the lineup with mid-back tightness, Mills’ start moved up a day.
Mills was perfect through four innings, striking out six.
Mills finally put a batter on base in the fifth inning, when he walked Garcia. Then, Smoak got the Brewers’ first hit of the night off Mills. He pulled a ground ball to the right side. The Cubs defense was in the shift, so Bote, the third baseman, was playing in between first and second. Smoak’s hit snuck through the hole between Bote and second baseman Nico Hoerner.
Mills allowed two more hits but got out of the inning after giving up just one run.
The Brewers did most of their damage in the sixth. Eric Sogard singled to center field. Then, Mills hit Milwaukee’s Keston Hiura with a pitch. Christian Yelich drove them both home with a three-run homer to right field, erasing the Cubs’ lead with one swing.
Pitching duel implodes
Woodruff’s night mirrored Mills’ in many ways. The score remained locked in a scoreless tie through four innings.
The Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo was the first player from either team to reach base. He did so on a fielding error by Smoak, the Brewers first baseman, in the fourth.
The first hit from either side was a single by Smoak the next inning. Woodruff didn’t give up a hit until the fifth inning. But through 4 1/3 innings, he allowed three runs on four hits.
Where they stand
Despite the loss, the Cubs still have the best winning percentage in baseball. They are 13-4 (.765).
The Cubs play two more games against the Brewers to finish the four-game series. What was once a 10-game homestand for the Cubs is now scheduled to be a 12-game homestand.
On Friday, Major League Baseball announced that the Cubs would play doubleheaders against the Cardinals on Monday and Tuesday, to begin making up the three-game series that was postponed due to more positive COVID-19 tests within the Cardinals organization.
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