MILWAUKEE — When it rains it pours, and the Cubs could really use an umbrella right now.
Things looked like they were headed in the right direction in Monday’s 6-3 loss to the Brewers after two clunkers in Pittsburgh. Right-hander Adbert Alzolay, who struggled against the Brewers in his first outing of the season April 6, came out strong and found a groove early.
It was clear Alzolay had a plan of attack that involved a quicker pace, which clearly helped him stay in rhythm as he dominated the Brewers for the first five innings, throwing just 53 pitches.
But things quickly took an abrupt turn as Alzolay ran into a wall in the sixth inning. After allowing a walk and a pair of singles to load the bases, Alzolay got a fielder’s choice for the first out of the inning. Manager David Ross then turned to Andrew Chafin, who has been one of the Cubs’ best options in the bullpen, to face Luis Urias.
Chafin had allowed just two hits and struck out eight in 3 2/3 innings but had his first hiccup of the season. Urias, who was 2-for-27 going into the at-bat, got to Chafin on the first pitch by lining a three-run double into the left-field corner to give the Brewers a 3-1 lead.
“The main thing there is you start to look at [the lineup] as [Alzolay] gets to the third time through the lineup and he’s throwing the ball really well,” Ross said. “You feel like he’s got the guys off balance, but the numbers are getting up there pretty good. And you’re thinking high leverage and who do I want if we’ve got traffic out there.
“I know they’ll pitch-hit for just about anybody, and I’ll take my chances with that [Chafin] matchup,” Ross said. “The guy hit a kind of out-in-front double down [the] line. One of our better relievers just didn’t have the best night.”
The game went from bad to worse as Milwaukee scored three more runs for a 6-1 lead.
Alzolay took the loss but pitched well besides a rough sixth inning. He allowed three runs, three hits, walked one and struck out six in 5 1/3 innings.
“To be honest, my excitement was through the roof [in the sixth inning] because I don’t remember the last time that I was out there to start the sixth,” Alzolay said. “I feel it was a huge step forward for me that I was able to have the opportunity to go out there for the sixth inning. A little tired at the end, but I feel we’re building from that so I’ll take it.”
Bryant lone bright spot of offense
The Cubs’ offense hasn’t had much to smile about through 10 games, but what has been a bright spot is the offensive resurgence of third baseman Kris Bryant. He has been one of the only sources of offense for the Cubs early this season.
Bryant hammered a Freddy Peralta fastball to the back of the bullpen for his third home run of the season, giving the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning. He finished 2-for-4.
“The ball has been coming off nice and loud from where I’m sitting,” Ross said. “He looks like he’s extremely comfortable and getting off some really good swings and also taking some really good walks against some tough pitchers. I think Kris is in a good place.”