‘Annoying’ Brewers walk off on Cubs in 9th, signal start of division ‘dogfight’
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MILWAUKEE – The Brewers started Friday by putting their All-Star closer on the disabled list for what’s expected to be six weeks or more.
They ended it by outpitching the leading bullpen in the majors and beating the Cubs 5-4 on a walkoff single by Orlando Arcia in the bottom of the ninth inning at Miller Park.
If they Cubs didn’t already know what they Brewers might bring to the National League Central race before the season started, they may have found out Friday night.
“We know they’re going to be there all year, top of this division with us,” said Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks, whose scoreless start was interrupted explosively with a barrage in the fifth inning that included two-out home runs by Eric Thames and Travis Shaw in a three-batter sequence.
It was only the seventh time in 101 career starts that Hendricks had allowed multiple home runs in a start – only the second time two came in one inning. And it quickly erased an early 2-0 Cubs lead.
“That was definitely two bad pitches, and I just didn’t get away with either one of them,” said Hendricks, who finished the fifth but was lifted for a pinch hitter in the Cubs’ tying, two-run sixth.
“He had really good stuff,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I don’t know if their pitcher getting on [with a leadoff single] had something to do with it.
“But we did a lot of things well,” Maddon said. “We should have won that game, but we didn’t. We play that game consistently [this year], I’ll take it.”
That may be a harbinger, if the young and feisty Brewers are able to recover so well from injuries to key players. They’ve been without All-Star outfielder Christian Yelich since the series started because of an oblique injury.
The Cubs were without first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who was out with back tightness.
Even after Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff managed to last just two outs into the fourth inning – already at 95 pitches – the Brewers responded with 5 1/3 innings from three relievers, including the last two by journeyman Matt Albers (1-0).
The Cubs’ bullpen entered the day with a major-league-leading 0.62 ERA in 29 innings and kept the Brewers in check until the ninth on Friday.
And it wasn’t enough.
“It’s going to be a battle, a dogfight all year long,” Hendricks said. “We know they’re dep. They’re a resilient bunch. What they did last year kind of brought them together for sure.”
The Brewers led the Cubs by 5 ½ games in the division at the All-Star break before the Cubs’ overtook them for the division title with a furious second half.
“They’re a lot similar to last year,” said third baseman Kris Bryant, whose one-out throwing error on a slow roller on the infield put runners at the corners and set the stage for the game winner.
“They seem like a fun group over there, having a lot of fun,” Bryant added. “Sure, it can get a little annoying, but, I mean, we do the same thing. It’s a nice little rivalry, and they’re going to be a tough one this year.”
Cubs reliever Mike Montgomery opened the ninth by striking out Domingo Santana, but then walked Manny Pina. That’s when pinch-hitter Hernan Perez dribbled the ball on the infield that Bryant threw over Victor Caratini at first.
“I honestly shouldn’t have even thrown it. He was safe all the way,” Bryant said. “But I was just trying to make a play there.”
Maddon went to the mound at that point to discuss strategy, and after a throw over to first and a pitch to Arcia, he brought in left-fielder Ben Zobrist as a fifth infielder.
Three pitches later, Arcia slapped the game-winner the opposite way to right.
“We have to be on it,” Hendricks said, “game in and game out, regardless of who we lose, who they lose, because there’s a lot of depth on each side. It’s going to be dogfight.”