Even in loss, Mike Montgomery continues to provide ‘big lift’ for Cubs’ rotation
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MILWAUKEE — Don’t blame the Cubs’ 1-0 loss Wednesday to the Brewers on left-hander Mike Montgomery.
And don’t blame the Cubs if they have trouble sending him back to the bullpen if he keeps pitching like he did at Miller Park.
Only one batter in the Brewers’ lineup reached on a hit or walk against him in another strong six-inning outing since he joined the rotation four starts ago for injured Yu Darvish.
That hitter, Lorenzo Cain, did just enough damage, including a third-inning home run, to provide the difference.
‘‘But Montgomery was outstanding,’’ manager Joe Maddon said. ‘‘We have to do better than no runs.’’
Montgomery (2-2) has allowed only three runs in four starts since joining the rotation, his ERA at 1.14 since then. Wednesday marked the first time the Cubs lost with him starting this season.
‘‘What he’s done is impressive, and we definitely appreciate it,’’ right fielder Jason Heyward said. ‘‘It’s a big lift.’’
The starting performances essentially have served as a mission statement for the popular swingman, who lobbied publicly during the winter for a shot to be among the Cubs’ starting five this season.
‘‘I’ve got a lot of confidence,’’ he said. ‘‘I know if I go out there and execute the game plan and stay within myself, good things happen. I’ve got a good feel for my pitches right now.
‘‘I’ve been around, and I know what it takes to be good. So it’s just about going out there and doing it.’’
Out of left field
Maddon used right-hander Steve Cishek and left-hander Brian Duensing as alternating left fielders in the eighth inning once the Brewers’ leadoff man reached base against Cishek.
With left-handed-hitting Eric Thames called on to pinch-hit, the right-handed-hitting Cain behind him and left-handed-hitting Christian Yelich after that, Maddon toggled the relievers between left field and the mound until all three were retired in order.
‘‘I’ve talked to them about doing it before, and it just popped,’’ said Maddon, who eventually had Willson Contreras in left for Yelich, who actually sliced a ball there near the foul line for the final out.
‘‘It was a little terrifying, to be honest,’’ said Duensing, who borrowed left-hander Justin Wilson’s larger glove because the Cubs’ only left-handed outfielder (Heyward) was using his. ‘‘But it was fun. Not that it was ever a box, but I can check it off.’’
It was the first career outfield appearances for both pitchers.
Darvish, Edwards updates
The Cubs hadn’t set the schedule yet, but right-hander Yu Darvish fared well enough overnight after throwing a bullpen session Tuesday that he’ll throw a second one during the series in St. Louis, Maddon said.
Darvish, who has been on the disabled list the last three weeks because of triceps soreness, said after his 28-pitch session that he hopes to return to the rotation before the All-Star break.
Reliever Carl Edwards Jr. (shoulder soreness) also fared well after throwing Tuesday and likely will throw Friday in St. Louis.
The Cubs won’t set a timeline for the return of either pitcher, but Edwards is considered much closer than Darvish.
This and that
When Kyle Schwarber beat the right-side shift with a single up the middle in the fourth, he snapped an 0-for-17 skid.
• The Cubs’ rotation has a 2.46 ERA in the team’s last 16 games.
• Javy Baez tied his 2016 career high with his 12th stolen base in the second. It was his fourth steal of third this season. He also has a steal of home.