MILWAUKEE (AP) — Cubs manager Joe Maddon tried almost every move in the book, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a second consecutive shutout loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Lorenzo Cain homered and Jhoulys Chacin combined with three relievers on a six-hitter to pace the Brewers past Chicago, 1-0 on Wednesday, even as Maddon used two pitchers and a catcher in left field in the eighth inning.
The Brewers improved to 3-8 this season against the Cubs and moved 1 1/2 games ahead of second-place Chicago in the NL Central. Seven of the 11 games between the two have been shutouts, five by Chicago.
“We’re a good baseball team and we know they’re a good baseball team,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “This series wasn’t going to decide anything, but we know that that’s a team that’s going to be there in the end, so wins against them are important.”
Chacin (6-1) allowed four hits in six innings, striking out seven and walking four to win his sixth consecutive decision. Jeremy Jeffress pitched the seventh, Josh Hader struck out the side in the eighth and Cory Knebel worked a perfect ninth for his sixth save.
“Their guy was really good at keeping us off-balance,” Maddon said. “He is not overpowering by any means but he pitches well. Sometimes that gives us a lot of trouble when a guy can pitch like that. We had a couple opportunities. We didn’t square him up at all really.”
Mike Montgomery (2-2) allowed only two hits in six innings, both by Cain. He struck out four and walked one in his fourth start since replacing injured Yu Darvish in the rotation.
Cain drove a 3-1 pitch over the wall in left with one out in the third for his eighth homer. He also opened the first inning with a single.
“It was the only run today, but it ended up winning us a ballgame,” Cain said. “That just shows how great of a job the pitching has been doing. We’ve definitely got to get going and score some more runs. We’re definitely putting too much pressure on our pitchers as a whole.”
To open the eighth, Maddon brought in right-hander Steve Cishek, who gave up an infield single to Orlando Arcia. Cishek then moved to left field for the first time in his eight-year career as left-hander Brian Duensing came on and struck out pinch-hitter Eric Thames.
Duensing then moved to left, also for the first time in his career, and Cishek returned to the mound to retire Cain on a fielder’s choice. Duensing came back to pitch with left field being turned over to catcher Willson Contreras, who made a running catch on Christian Yelich’s drive into the corner for the third out.
“It just popped,” Maddon said. “(Kyle) Schwarber making the last out, the pitcher coming up third. And the way their batting order set up, it just played out perfectly. You can’t always do it but it worked out today.”
The Cubs won Monday’s series opener 7-2 with five runs in the 11th, but managed just two hits in Tuesday’s 4-0 loss.
“We played well the first game but we only got two runs up to the 11th inning of that game and then shutout-shutout,” Maddon said. “We almost should be grateful we won one out of three.”
The Brewers stranded runners at third in each of the first two innings. In the second, rightfielder Jason Heyward prevented a run, charging in for a sensational sliding grab on Erik Kratz’s one-out sinking liner and then recovering quickly to hold Hernan Perez at third.
Duensing, who said he last played left field in high school in 2001, was apprehensive when Cain came to the plate in the eighth. “I was praying he would stay away from Lorenzo Cain,” Duensing said of Cishek. “It looked like he was trying to hook one (to left) and I was not appreciative of that. Cishek got the job done so were able to get through there and give our team a chance.”
Maybe because it didn’t affect the outcome, Counsell admired Maddon’s ingenuity. “It was creative. It was smart. They got matchups they wanted. He did a nice job.”
With a day off on Thursday, struggling third baseman Kris Bryant was held out to give him two days rest. Bryan is hitless in his last 15 at-bats and has not homered since May 14. Even trailing 1-0 in the ninth, Maddon resisted the urge to use Bryant as a pinch-hitter. “He has been struggling a lot,” Maddon said. “Theoretically it sounds wonderful. But I thought (Chris) Gimenez had some good swings today. It’s an easy dialogue to conjure up but I was really trying to give him the day off.”
CAIN JOINS COUNSELL IN BREWERS LORE
The Brewers 1-0 victory over the Cubs was only the second in the all-time series. Milwaukee’s only other 1-0 win was on July 5, 2004 at Miller Park in which Counsell provided the only run with a first-inning homer.
Cubs: RHP Yu Darvish, on the 10-day DL (right triceps tendinitis) and RHP Carl Edwards, also on the DL (right shoulder inflammation), each came through Tuesday’s bullpen session well, Maddon said.
Brewers: RHP Matt Albers, on the 10-day DL (right shoulder discomfort), will continue treatment throughout the weekend, and then be reassessed. ... RHP Zach Davies, on the 10-day DL retroactive to May 30 (right rotator cuff inflammation), threw a bullpen session Wednesday, but is at least three weeks away and will need two or three rehab outings, Counsell said.
Cubs: Chicago is off Thursday, then heads to St. Louis for a three-game series against the Cardinals. Left-hander Jon Lester (7-2, 2.22) starts for the Cubs, opposed by Michael Wacha (8-1, 2.47). Lester has won his last three starts, and is 6-2 with a 1.72 ERA in his last 10.
Brewers: After a day off, Milwaukee opens a three-game home series against the Phillies on Friday. Brent Suter (6-4, 4.61) starts the opener. The left-hander has yet to record a quality start in 12 tries, with his longest outing 5 2/3 innings.