Tonight, Jason Heyward let his bat make the speech.
I guess that’s what happens when he’s in a park where it’s physically impossible to have a rain delay.
What a beautiful ballgame. The best part is that no matter what happens on Sunday, the Cubs will leave Miller Park in first place. The second best part is that the Brewers set a new record by going two whole days without complaining about making up a rainout.
So both teams have something to feel good about tonight.
What You Need to Know: The Cubs struck out 17 times against 33 different Brewers pitchers. It took them until the 11th inning to record their first extra base hit. And Heyward made all of that moot with one beautiful swing of the bat.
Kyle Hendricks gave them five solid innings in his second start since coming off of the disabled list. Save for a couple of first inning pitches, his command was pretty sharp. In fact, between the two starting pitchers, it looked like he decided to use all of the night’s for control himself.
Next Level: Junior Guerra might have pitched the worst game in baseball history that resulted in zero runs being scored. And based on the pace he established, his full name is apparently Pedro Baez Junior Guerra.
He walked four in three innings, approached Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo as if there were a surrender option, and generally looked as out of place in Miller Park as the phrase “heart healthy.” The only things that saved him were an overanxious Javy Baez (Editor’s note: Can you go one recap without being redundant?) and a sprawling catch by Lewis Brinson on a 110.5 MPH scorcher off the bat of Kyle Schwarber.
Well, technically, Brinson caught the ball and then sprawled out on the ground. And at that moment in St. Louis, Jim Edmonds could be heard whispering “There can be only one.”
Because Craig Counsell has a functioning set of eyes, he said “The hell with this.” So he proceeded to manage the rest of the game like he had Brian Kenny on speed dial. And here’s where this game showed how the Brewers have built their current pitching staff. Like their small market brethren in Cleveland and Kansas City over the past few years, Milwaukee has stacked its bullpen with a succession of hellacious power arms.
First came 97 mph funky lefthander and future Michigan Senatorial Candidate Josh Hader. With the Cubs trotting out a lineup with Schwarber, Ian Happ, and Heyward in succession, that was almost not fair. Hader had his way with them in the middle innings, and the only hope for the Cubs was if they could somehow distract him by quoting Dazed and Confused or tossing him a hackey sack.
They managed to tie the game against 98 mph throwing Jacob Barnes, mostly because Kris Bryant decided he’d made enough outs over the past few days and wasn’t going to have any tonight. But they still had to deal with Anthony Swarzak and Cory Knebel before Counsell had to use some of his lesser arms.
That’s a real deep group. And while the Cubs definitely have more talent than Milwaukee, it gives Counsell a way to work around that deficiency that might allow them to hang around for longer than we’d expect.
Thankfully, the Cubs also have a great bullpen to counter them. Brian Duensing, Carl Edwards Jr, and Koji Uehara all did the job getting the game to extra innings. And then World Series Hero Mike Montgomery pitched the 10th. Somehow, that always seems like a good idea.
Top Play (WPA): After looking real bad swinging through a high fastball, Heyward buggy whipped a 1-1 pitch 401 feet to right center off the Toyota Territory sign over the Cubs bullpen. (+.374) Less than twenty feet away, Wade Davis saw the ball land and thought, “I got this.”
Bottom Play (WPA): Hendricks only left a few pitches up in the zone. Unfortunately, two of them were in the first inning, resulting in an Eric Thames single and an RBI double to Zealous Urine Sample Guardian Ryan Braun (-.109). The Brewers would score no more.
Up Next: Did you like all the bullpen arms you saw tonight? You’ll probably get to enjoy them again tomorrow as it’s the John Lackey game. He’ll be opposed by Generic Boy Band Cute One Zach Davies as the Cubs go for the series win and attempt to push Milwaukee 2 1/2 back.
Lead photo courtesy Benny Sieu—USA Today Sports