Cubs prove they can win ‘messy’ games as defense lifts them past Brewers

Ian Happ threw out two runners at the plate in extra innings in the Cubs’ 7-6 victory in 11 innings Tuesday.

SHARE Cubs prove they can win ‘messy’ games as defense lifts them past Brewers
Miguel Amaya celebrates after the Cubs defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 7-6 on Tuesday.

Miguel Amaya celebrates after the Cubs defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 7-6 on Tuesday.

Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

MILWAUKEE — Cubs left fielder Ian Happ knew as soon as he caught the ball that Brewers baserunner Owen Miller, representing the tying run, would be racing home.

‘‘You have to catch it first,’’ he said, ‘‘but you have to get some momentum behind it to make the throw.’’

Happ stutter-stepped as the ball fell into his glove, then fired an accurate throw home, long-hopping it into catcher Miguel Amaya’s glove. Amaya dropped a knee and lunged across the baseline, tagging Miller with both hands for the final out of the Cubs’ 7-6 victory in 11 innings Tuesday.

‘‘We needed a win,’’ Happ said.

It wasn’t pretty, but it was gutsy. And maybe it was just what the Cubs needed to right their trajectory before the All-Star break.

‘‘They don’t put a banner up based on underlying numbers,’’ president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said before the game of the Cubs (39-45), who have the best run differential (plus-23) in the National League Central but are seven games behind the division-leading Reds. ‘‘We have to translate that into wins and losses, and we haven’t done that well enough.’’

Hoyer has less than a month to decide which direction the Cubs will take at the trade deadline.

‘‘Where we’ve struggled is . . . messy games,’’ Hoyer said. ‘‘We haven’t won those types of games. And I think that, ultimately, is something [where] we have to find a way.’’

The Cubs found a way to win such a game Tuesday, improving to 11-21 in games decided by two runs or fewer.

‘‘Our leaders just stayed the course,’’ said veteran right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who held the Brewers to two runs in six innings. ‘‘We really weren’t getting too high or too low. It was like everything was going against us — [them] hitting all the holes, bad contact finding holes, we’re lining out to guys — and the whole time everybody stayed with it.’’

Not to mention that the Cubs were in a skid, losing seven of their previous eight games. And after they had blown a six-run lead in the series opener Monday, a sense of deja vu tinged the game for a while Tuesday.

The Cubs’ frustration with calls throughout the game boiled over in the 11th, when first-base coach Mike Napoli and manager David Ross were ejected.

‘‘There was a lot of bull---- that went on today that was really frustrating,’’ said Ross, who also pointed to the Brewers closing the roof in the middle of an inning late in the game.

After the Cubs squandered an early four-run lead, two defensive plays in extra innings — backing an impressive debut from rookie reliever Daniel Palencia — secured the victory.

With one out in the bottom of the 10th and the automatic extra-innings runner on second base, Miller hit a line drive into shallow left. It bounced toward Happ as pinch runner Andruw Monasterio approached third and turned to sprint home.

‘‘You’re coming in hot, so you’re trying to get your feet under you, make sure you at least catch the ball first before you get rid of it,’’ Happ said.

He put everything he had into the ‘‘full janitor throw,’’ as he called it. From the ground, he didn’t even get to see the play as it unfolded.

Happ’s throw beat Monasterio, taking one easy-to-handle hop. Then Amaya spotted Miller jumping up and down between first and second and fired to second. Miller turned on the jets and tried to evade second baseman Nico Hoerner’s tag, but he slid past the bag and his hand came off it. Hoerner dived after him and applied the tag, completing the improbable double play.

In the 11th, Hoerner hit an infield single to drive in the go-ahead run. And, back on defense, Happ made another game-changing throw home.

‘‘There’s so much character in that room,’’ Ross said of the Cubs’ fight to the end. ‘‘I wish I wish people at home can feel that.’’

The Latest
The Cubs beat the Cardinals 8-3 Sunday to complete 5-2 road trip.
In an alert sent Sunday, Chicago police said the man has pulled out a gun and robbed at least five victims after meeting at an agreed-upon location. In one instance, the man met the person at their home and stole their vehicle.
“It’s not the first half we wanted, but we just gotta keep showing up, playing hard,” left fielder Andrew Benintendi said.
Cubs center fielder Pete Crow-Armstrong logged the first multi-homer game of his career.
Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak was shot to death when a gunman tried to assassinate President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt in Miami in 1933. Roosevelt was unhurt.