Cubs rally against Brewers bullpen for another series win
Maybe it's too late to salvage the season, but the Cubs have risen to the occasion lately when facing some tough challenges.
After getting shut out for 7 innings by last year's Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes, the Cubs rallied with runs in the eighth and ninth to pull out a 2-1 victory at Milwaukee on Wednesday afternoon.
During the past three weeks, the Cubs have won two out of three against the Brewers, Red Sox, Cardinals and Braves. They've won four straight series and could be riding an eight-game win streak if not for a couple of extra-inning losses.
"Just good quality baseball, good pitching in close games and guys executing when they need to," Cubs manager David Ross said. "I think throughout the lineup, guys are contributing, the offense is kind of taking off. We've gotten good pitching, that always helps."
The Cubs took the lead in the top of the ninth when Patrick Wisdom walked, stole second and scored on P.J. Higgins' double down the right-field line against Brewers closer Josh Hader.
It was the second time in the series the Cubs touched up Hader. He gave up Seiya Suzuki's inside-the-park home run on Monday.
Trailing 1-0 an inning earlier, Christopher Morel launched a long fly ball that landed on the top of the wall in center field, missing a home run by inches. The ball didn't bounce far enough for another inside-the-park job, but Morel made it to third for a triple.
Suzuki was not in Wednesday's starting lineup, but came out to pinch-hit next and drew a walk from Brad Boxberger. Rafael Ortega followed by ripping an RBI single to right to even the score.
The Cubs (34-48) had one other scoring chance thwarted in the fifth inning. With a runner on second base, Higgins lifted a deep fly to left, but Brewers outfielder Keston Hiura made a running catch just before crashing into the wall.
The Cubs couldn't have asked for much more from starter Adrian Sampson. He threw 5⅔ innings, allowing 1 run on 4 hits, 5 strikeouts and no walks.
"Right from the get-go, was just putting the ball where I wanted to, inducing weak contact early on to keep my pitch count down," he told reporters in Milwaukee.
Sampson gave up a long home run to Hiura on a 3-2 pitch in the fifth inning. Sampson was unhappy he didn't get a strike three called on the previous pitch and took about five steps off the mound toward the dugout, then stared down plate umpire Clint Vondrak.
Video replay didn't back Sampson up, though. The pitch was close, but wide of the strike zone.
Mychal Givens got out of a jam in the eighth, coaxing a pop up from Willie Adames and striking out Luis Urias with a runner on third.
Burnes has now faced the Cubs three times this season and the Brewers lost all three. He was at the top of his game Wednesday, with 10 strikeouts and just 3 hits allowed.
Higgins continues to be a pleasant surprise for the Cubs. Drafted back in 2015, he made his major-league debut last year, but a shoulder injury ended the run after just nine games.
He chose to stay with the Cubs as a free agent over the winter and was called up when Yan Gomes went on the injured list. But even after Gomes returned, Higgins has stayed on the roster. He's hitting .299 on the season in limited action.
The versatile Higgins started at catcher Wednesday as Willson Contreras continued to rest a tight hamstring, then moved to first base late in the game.