The Cubs began a first-place showdown against the Milwaukee Brewers Monday night at Miller Park. Starter Jose Quintana looked good for most of the game, but the Brewers held a narrow lead into the late innings. Chicago was able to rally against a daunting Milwaukee bullpen to tie the score. The game went to extras where the Northsiders broke it open in the 11th inning to move into first place in the NL Central.
The Brew Crew struck first in the bottom of the 3rd inning, when backup catcher Erik Kratz hit a solo shot to right center. The Cubs evened the game in the 5th inning, when Javier Baez singled and stole second before coming home on an Albert Almora single. The Brewers struck back with another homer from Jonathan Villar to make it 2-1 in the bottom of the 5th.
In the 7th, the Crew went to super-reliver Josh Hader to shut things down. The Cubs went down quietly in that inning, the 8th inning was a different story, however. Ben Zobrist drew a walk against Hader and advanced to second on an Almora fly out. The suddenly clutch Jason Heyward ripped a 107-mile an hour single to right to tie the score at 2-2.
The game remained dead-locked until the the Cubs rallied in the 11th inning. Anthony Rizzo crushed a long home run against Matt Albers to give the road team a 3-2 lead. Zobrist and Almora hit a pair of RBI singles to increase the lead to 5-2. Then Heyward added an exclamation point with two-run double to left-center to make it 7-2. Anthony Bass made his Cubs debut to close out the victory. (Box score)
Why the Cubs Won
Randy Rosario came on to pitch in the 9th inning and threw two scoreless frames to keep the game going so the Cubs could rally. The lefty has only allowed one run in 10.2 innings this season.
Rizzo hammered a ball into the fourth deck at Miller Park against Hader in the 8th inning, but it was 5 feet foul. Tony eventually walked in that at bat. His drive in the 11th was hit just as hard, but luckily, it stayed 10 feet fair this time.
Stats That Matter
- Jose Quintana was very good other than his two mistakes that went out of the park: 6 IP, 2 R, 4 H, 2 BB, and 3 K. He has been much more efficient as of late and good results are following.
- The transformation of Jason Heyward the last two weeks has been almost stunning. Three more hits Monday have him up to a .760 OPS on the season. The quality of the contact is much better too, he is scalding the ball.
- Albert Almora also had three hits, to raise his average to .323 on the year. Albert is a very good hitter, his bat control is getting better and better. His hit in the 11th was poked perfectly into the vacated space between first and second base.
- Ben Zobrist doesn’t start games he finishes them, ok maybe that’s a little dramatic, still he came off the bench with two huge plays. Don’t overlook the heads-up tag he made to get into scoring position for J-Hey in the 8th.
The Cubs moved a half game ahead of the Brewers for first-place. Perhaps more importantly, they got to the lights-out Milwaukee pen. That has to be a big mental edge for Chicago as the season moves forward.
Game two of the series features an inconsistent Tyler Chatwood against Chase Anderson. The 7:10 pm CT start is televised on NBC Sports Chicago.