MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers’ weekend series against the Cubs was a tale of one step forward, two steps back. Two very, very big steps back.
After an uplifting, walk-off win in Friday’s series opener, the Brewers suffered their two most disheartening losses of the season in succession, including one of the ugliest defeats in franchise history on Sunday afternoon. It was a 12-0 loss to the Cubs at Miller Park in which the Brewers were buried under an avalanche of errors -- three physical, one mental -- and once again, they didn’t hit.
Literally, they didn’t hit. The Brewers were on the wrong end of a no-hitter for the fourth time in franchise history, silenced by Cubs right-hander Alec Mills in a 114-pitch effort that tightened Chicago’s grip on the National League Central.
There’s no time to sulk. The third-place Brewers face five games in the next three days against the second-place Cardinals, including doubleheaders on Monday and Wednesday. That series begins a stretch in which 10 of Milwaukee’s final 16 games are against the team directly ahead of them in the division standings. Remember, second place is just as good as first in 2020 in terms of sealing a spot in the postseason.
“You know, I like to be the eternal optimist here,” said Josh Lindblom, who will try to steer the Brewers in a better direction when he starts Game 1 on Monday. “It really sucks, but it’s one loss. The sun is going to come up [Monday] and we have a baseball game to play. The crazy thing about this season is we’re one good week away from being right in the thick of things.”
How hard will it be to turn the page from being no-hit?
“It won’t be hard for us,” Eric Sogard said. “We know every game right now is everything. We’ve been fine with letting losses go and moving on.”
The Brewers will need to get the bats going. They scored just three runs while dropping two of three games to the Cubs, which on one hand was not surprising since Milwaukee entered Sunday sixth from the bottom in MLB in runs per game, and the club was nearly no hit once before in 2020 -- Sogard’s single broke up a bid by the Twins’ Kenta Maeda leading off the ninth inning on Aug. 18.
On the other hand, this is the same Milwaukee offense that produced 19 runs on 21 hits, including a club-record 13 extra-base hits, on Wednesday at Detroit, and it had been showing some signs of life even before that.
“Basically the best way to say it is it's baseball, you know?” said Brewers starter Adrian Houser, who was let down by the Brewers’ defense in four-plus innings Sunday. “It likes to kick you when you're down and keep you humble. I think that's just the way it's been going for us this year. Baseball is kicking us in the teeth a little bit and we're going to have to step up and kick it right back.”
Against Mills, there were few signs of fight. Despite only five swings and misses all day -- tying Dallas Braden’s 2010 perfect game for the fewest in a no-hitter since STATS, Inc. began tracking pitches in 1988 -- the Brewers only had one ball in play that even remotely threatened to be a hit. That was Avisaíl García’s groundout to shortstop to end the sixth inning. García was out by a hair, and the Brewers didn’t challenge.
It was the Cubs’ second no-hitter at Miller Park, but the first involving the Brewers. Chicago’s Carlos Zambrano no-hit the Astros at the Brewers’ domed home on Sept. 14, 2008, while the Brewers were in Philadelphia, after the Chicago-Houston series was relocated from Minute Maid Park because of Hurricane Ike.
Sunday marked the fourth time the Brewers were held hitless. The others were authored by the Tigers’ Justin Verlander in 2007, the Twins’ Scott Erickson in 1994 and the Royals’ Steve Busby in 1974. Only Busby accomplished the feat against the Brewers in Milwaukee.
For Mills and the Cubs, it was one of the most lopsided no-hitters in history. According to Baseball-Reference, this marked only the fifth time in the modern era (since 1901) that a team pitched a no-hitter and won by at least 12 runs. The most lopsided game on that list? Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter for the Cubs on April 21, 2016, a 16-0 win over the Reds.
While Mills carved up Brewers hitters with his slow curveball, those same players did little in the field to help Houser while the Cubs ran up the score. In the fourth inning, Chicago scored five runs, all unearned, after errors by Sogard and second baseman Keston Hiura. It got worse an inning later, when Javier Báez stole a run with alert baserunning after advancing to third on a sacrifice fly. Believing time had been called, Sogard flipped the baseball to second base for a challenge of whether Báez broke early for third. As Sogard wound up to toss, Báez scampered home.
Incensed, Brewers manager Craig Counsell argued with crew chief Ron Kulpa and was ejected. The Cubs made it a four-run inning and a 9-0 lead.
“Nothing went right today,” Counsell said. “We didn't play a good game. We played a poor game, and we lost.”
The Cardinals also lost Sunday and are 20-20. They lead the 20-24 Brewers by two games.
“We have 10 games against the team that's directly ahead of us,” Counsell said. “We haven't made it easy on ourselves but we still have an incredible opportunity in front of us. It's up to us what we do with that opportunity.”