Hapless Brewers swept away by Cubs
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
CHICAGO--Not that long ago, the Milwaukee Brewers and their fans figured the four-game series against St. Louis that begins Thursday night at Miller Park would be a battle for first place in the NL Central.
Instead, it has become a matter of survival for the reeling Brewers.
Milwaukee’s late-season collapse continued Wednesday night with yet another ugly loss. The Chicago Cubs—a last-place team playing much better baseball than the former division leaders—finished off their first home sweep of the Brewers since 2004 with a 6-2 victory at Wrigley Field.
The defeat left the Brewers with an eight-game losing streak on a three-city trip that began with a 10-1 victory in San Diego. Barely competitive in half of the losses, the Brewers were outscored, 55-16, during the collapse while going from 1½ games ahead of the Cardinals to three games behind.
After leading the division for 150 consecutive days, the Brewers must get their act together against the streaking Cards or fall into wild card-or-bust mode.
The much-improved Cubs, using five rookies in the lineup hungry to show they belong in the majors, spoiled the return of right-hander Matt Garza, who had been out of the Brewers’ rotation for a month with a strained left oblique.
Garza suffered through a frustrating four-run third inning and exited, having allowed eight hits and six runs. The Brewers have constantly played from behind during their nightmarish skid and were forced to do so again with predictable results.
Cubs rookie right-hander Kyle Hendricks boosted his record to 6-1 with a 2.02 earned run average by holding the Brewers to two runs on nine hits over 52/3 innings. It was the second victory over Milwaukee for Hendricks, who pitched 71/3 scoreless innings against the Brewers on Aug. 12.
The Brewers have played from behind consistently during their skid but this time they broke out on top with a run in the second inning. Khris Davis bounced a single up the middle with one out, moved up on Matt Clark’s grounder to second and scored when Logan Schafer punched a single to center off Hendricks.
The 1-0 lead did not last long, however. With two down in the bottom of the inning, Logan Watkins singled and Chris Valaika, the No. 8 hitter batting .188, blasted a long home run into the left-field bleachers to put the Cubs on top, 2-1.
It only got worse in the third inning. Much worse. With a runner on second and one down, Luis Valbuena lifted a pop fly to shallow left that fell for a hit when shortstop Jean Segura and leftfielder Khris Davis veered off to avoid colliding.
Rookie sensation Jorge Soler then dumped a bloop double down the left-field line that scored both runners to make it 4-1. Welington Castillo lined a ground-rule double down the left-field line to knock in another run and one out later Watkins singled to right to knock in the fourth run of the inning.
That would be all for Garza, who gave way to long reliever Marco Estrada to open the bottom of the fourth.
The Brewers had a chance to get back in the game in the sixth when they loaded the bases with one down on singles by Gerardo Parra, Jonathan Lucroy and Davis. When first baseman Valaika muffed pinch-hitter Lyle Overbay’s bouncer for an error, a run scored and the bases remained full.
The rally fizzled there when Hendricks got Schafer to pop out and reliever Justin Grimm took over to retire Segura on a fly to right.