In between the third and fourth innings Tuesday at Wrigley Field, the Cubs played video of Alec Mills’ 2020 Milwaukee no-hitter on the big board perched above the left-field bleachers.
It wasn’t much of a taunt, though, for at least a few reasons.
One, the Brewers led 3-0 at the time on the way to an easy 4-0 victory that evened a three-game series heading into Wednesday’s finale.
Two, the Cubs themselves had no hits at the time, finished with only one and now are stuck on 18 total through their first five games of the season. At least Kris Bryant came up in the fourth and rapped a double down the left-field line to replace one of the zeros on the old scoreboard in center.
And three — talk about timing — fifth starter Adbert Alzolay was on the hill and having a less-than-stellar season debut. Whom did Alzolay beat out for the No. 5 spot in the rotation? Mills, of course. And “beat out” is putting it kindly considering Alzolay’s rocky performance in spring training.
Why isn’t the guy who threw that no-no last September starting again?
Mills — in the bullpen for now — could be in a jack-of-all-trades role all season, pitching in long relief, making spot starts and even stepping in for closer Craig Kimbrel on occasion as he did Monday to earn his second career save. Manager David Ross is betting on Alzolay, who still doesn’t have 10 career starts under his belt but brings some welcome miles per hour to a soft-tossing rotation.
Mills’ versatility is, as he put it, his “security.” Not that he was happy with Ross’ decision..
“I’m not going to lie, it didn’t feel great,” he said.
Alzolay served up a three-run homer to Travis Shaw in the first, but he settled down, in one stretch retiring eight straight hitters.
“I was able to come back after that homer,” Alzolay said. “And I take [from] the outing that I was able to keep competing and finish five innings for the team.”
The benches cleared briefly in the ninth inning after Willson Contreras was hit by Brewers reliever Brad Boxberger. Contreras took a few steps toward the mound before being restrained.
It was the second straight night a Brewers pitcher hit Contreras with a fastball. Monday, Devin Williams hit him in the helmet. This one got him in the left upper arm.
“At some point, you have to be better,” Ross said. “You can’t just continue to pitch in and hit guys.”
Bryant made a terrific diving stop at third, popped up and delivered a perfect throw across the infield. Second baseman David Bote one-upped him — or three-upped him — with a trio of outstanding plays including a leaping stab of a line drive that led to a double play.
Are the Cubs a good defensive team? That’s a definite maybe. But they are errorless through five games for the first time since 1992.
Contreras implored Ross to ask for a review after he was caught stealing in the third. No dice. There went the Cubs’ thrill ride of a base-stealing streak that lasted, well, is it still the first week of April? A stolen base Tuesday would’ve given them one in each of their first five games, which no Cubs team has done since — wait for it — 1907. But you probably knew that already.