CHICAGO – Holding the Chicago Cubs down is no easy task.
Despite handing starter Jimmy Nelson five runs over the first three innings on Tuesday night, the Milwaukee Brewers were unable to keep that lead. The Cubs scored four times in the decisive sixth inning, chasing Nelson in the process, and the Brewers ultimately fell, 9-7, at Wrigley Field.
Chicago snapped a four-game losing streak, and a three-game losing streak to Milwaukee on its home field that dated to last season.
Eric Thames saw his streak of consecutive games with a homer snapped at five, although he did double twice and collect three hits in all. Travis Shaw also had a homer and two doubles and drove in three runs to help power the Brewers offense.
Thames wasted no time getting himself into the Brewers’ record book, doubling off lefty Brett Anderson two batters into the game to give him hits in all 12 of his starts on the season.
It was the first of two doubles for Thames off Anderson, who also gave up two more to Shaw and five in all in a 3 2/3-inning outing. The Brewers got to him for three runs in the first and two in the third to open a 5-0 lead for Nelson.
The Cubs got two runs back in the bottom of the third on a homer by Kyle Schwarber. It was preceded by a Jon Jay walk, just the third on the season issued by Nelson.
BOX SCORE:Cubs 9, Brewers 7
Orlando Arcia’s leadoff homer to right in the fourth was the final hit allowed by Anderson, and it upped the Brewers’ lead to 6-4. Another lefty, Brian Duensing, replaced Anderson and was greeted by a Thames single – his third hit off a lefty on the night and fourth straight hit dating to Monday.
Nelson surrendered a two-run homer to Miguel Montero in the bottom of the fourth as the deficit shrunk to 6-4. Then Shaw opened the fifth with a homer to left-center off Duensing, the sixth hit in as many at-bats in the game off a lefty by the Thames/Shaw duo.
The Brewers took that lead into the sixth, and then the wheels came off.
A diving catch by Keon Broxton in center robbed Jason Heyward to start, then the Cubs chased Nelson with three straight hits. Pinch-hitter Albert Almora, Jr. drove in two runs with a single off Shaw’s glove to end the right-hander’s night after 5 1/3 innings, nine hits, seven runs (earned) and a walk to go along with three strikeouts.
Reliever Jared Hughes was greeted by a Jay triple that tied the score, and two batters later a Hughes wild pitch allowed Jay to scamper home and Chicago to take its first lead at 8-7.
Chicago tacked on an insurance run in the eighth against Milwaukee reliever Oliver Drake, and Thames fouled out in his fifth and at-bat to end the game.
BEHIND THE BOX SCORE
• Not surprisingly, manager Craig Counsell went with the hot hand at first base when he started Thames rather than right-handed-hitting Jesús Aguilar against Anderson. Shaw also started at third base instead of Hernán Pérez.
“We have players capable with a good matchup – Hernán and Jesús Aguilar are certainly good choices to play tonight,” Counsell said. “I’d like to find a spot for them to be in the lineup. Eric’s playing really well, and I think it’s important that you have some players that can be in your lineup every day, and this is how you do it – you let them play.
“There’s going to be off days and things like that in there, and we’ll work to maximize it for everybody.”
Counsell’s decision to go with Thames and Shaw paid off in a big way, as the duo went 6 for 6 with four doubles, a single and a homer against Anderson and another lefty in Duensing.
• Going strictly by the numbers, Matt Garza’s final rehab start for Class A Wisconsin at Clinton, Iowa, on Monday night wasn’t impressive. He allowed nine hits and five runs (four earned) along with eight strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings over an 88-pitch outing.
“It’s low-A ball, so all that goes with that I think went with it,” Counsell joked. “The important thing was he got up to almost 90 pitches with no discomfort at all, which is great.”
Now the Brewers must figure out where Garza fits on the staff.
“We’re going to have to make a decision here,” Counsell said. “Right now our plan is to get back home and regroup on it and figure out what we’re going to do. He’s ready to go, so now we’re going to have to figure out the best way to deploy it.”
• The Brewers entered Tuesday leading the major leagues in homers (25), extra-base hits (57) and total bases (221) and tied for the lead in doubles (29). They also had homered in nine straight games (20).
• Thames entered Tuesday leading the majors in homers (seven), runs (15), extra-base hits (11), total bases (42), slugging percentage (1.000) and OPS (1.479). He was also ranked third in batting average (.405), tied for fifth with 12 RBI and seventh in on-base percentage (.479).
Thames didn’t homer, but he remained red-hot at the plate with three more hits. Getting Shaw going at the plate will strengthen the heart of the Brewers’ lineup even more with Ryan Braun also on a tear of late. Nelson’s 94-pitch outing was disappointing considering how good he looked in the early going.
This year: 8-7 (2-5 home; 6-2 away)
Last year: 7-8
Wednesday: Brewers at Cubs, 1:20 p.m. Milwaukee LHP Tommy Milone (1-0, 7.36) vs. Chicago RHP Kyle Hendricks (1-1, 5.73). TV: FS Wisconsin. Radio: AM-620.
Cubs 9, Brewers 7: Sixth inning buries Nelson – USA TODAY