This was certainly not the way the Brewers wanted to begin the first long test of their schedule, with their starting pitcher lasting only four batters and a position player mopping up the final outs.
On Day 1 of 17 consecutive game days, the Brewers lost starter Brett Anderson to a right hamstring injury after 11 pitches, then fell into deficits of six runs after one inning and 10 runs after two innings in a 15-2 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Friday.
When infielder Daniel Robertson took the mound in the bottom of the eighth, he proved to be one of the Brewers’ most effective pitchers of the day, dealing a scoreless frame in the third mound appearance of his Major League career.
It tied for the Brewers’ second-most-lopsided defeat ever to the Cubs, just shy of the 19-5 beating that Jeff Suppan & Co. absorbed at the same venue in April 2008. This time, emergency reliever Josh Lindblom was responsible for most of the damage -- eight earned runs and three home runs in 3 2/3 innings -- but he left the Brewers’ bullpen reasonably intact for when the scoreboard is reset to zeros on Saturday afternoon.
“I feel terrible to put our team in a position like that, have Josh come in [the game] that situation,” Anderson said. “You never want that to happen. But it happened. Hopefully, it’s nothing too serious. You can’t feel worse than to put somebody in that situation.”
After the Brewers stranded Kolten Wong at second base in the top of the first inning following the first of Wong’s three hits in his return from the injured list, Anderson took the mound and lasted only one out. He retired Cubs leadoff man Willson Contreras on a hard groundout to third base, then surrendered consecutive doubles to Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo for a 1-0 Chicago lead, and a single to Javier Báez on an awkwardly-delivered 1-2 pitch that drew a visit from manager Craig Counsell, pitching coach Chris Hook and assistant athletic trainer Theresa Lau. After a few words, Anderson walked off the mound.
The Brewers initially reported the injury as right knee discomfort, but Anderson later provided additional clarity, saying he felt some tightness in the lower part of his right hamstring during the inning before a “pretty good” grab on the final pitch to Báez.
He was sent for an MRI scan on Friday evening. The Brewers expect to have results before Saturday’s first pitch and will make a roster move if it appears Anderson will need a stint on the 10-day injured list.
The Brewers also lost outfielder Avisaíl García, who departed in the third inning with back stiffness. He got treatment during the game, Counsell said, and the Brewers were optimistic about his availability for Saturday.
“If Brett turns out to be really minor, I think we're equipped to handle the game [Saturday] perfectly fine,” Counsell said.
The loss represented an inauspicious beginning to the first test presented to the Brewers by the schedule. They had off-days in each of the first four weeks of the regular season, but starting Friday through May 9, they play the Cubs, Marlins, Dodgers, Phillies and Marlins before getting a day off.
It also put a dent in the sparkling statistics posted so far by Brewers starters. They entered the day with the best ERA (1.99), the fewest hits per nine innings (5.44) and second-best WHIP (0.89) in the Major Leagues, but Anderson was charged with three earned runs in one-third of an inning.
“The last thing I wanted was to get us kind of behind the eight ball on the first day of this stretch here, and Josh threw 80 pitches and kind of sucked it up and helped us out,” Counsell said.
The Cubs looked nothing like the struggling lineup that the Brewers beat in a pair of series earlier this month. Friday was the Cubs’ second 15-run outburst in three days, and they put 17 balls in play at 102 mph or better, according to Statcast. That’s a single-game record since the tracking service started in 2015.
“It’s kind of a tale as old as time,” said Rizzo, one of four Cubs to homer in the game. “When guys get hot, get rolling, the next thing you know, another guy gets rolling, next thing you know, you hit a bunch of homers and get a bunch of hits.”
Anderson was already looking ahead to Freddy Peralta’s scheduled start for Milwaukee on Saturday.
“This was so lopsided, you just flush it and move on to the next one,” Anderson said. “We’ve been playing really well. Freddy has been pitching really awesome, so I expect us to have a more competitive game.”