MILWAUKEE -- Kristopher Bryant had a nano-second to decide. The game was tied, and the Brewers had the bases loaded with one out in the ninth inning. Speedster Keon Broxton was on third. Christian Yelich smacked a grounder to Bryant, who stepped on the bag and tried to get an inning-ending double play, but Yelich beat the throw, Broxton was safe and the Brewers had the win.
"It shouldn't have even gotten to that point," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said after the 4-3 loss to the Brewers on Monday at Miller Park. "We played a wonderful game. We walked too many people."
It may be early September, but there was a postseason-like buzz at Miller Park. With the win, the Brewers pulled within four games of the Cubs in the National League Central.
"The last couple years have been tight like this," Chicago's Anthony Rizzo said. "It's a fun atmosphere. We fought to the end."
The Cubs had plenty of highlights. Javier Baez sprinted around the bases to score in the first, Cole Hamels was stingy and Rizzo provided some late-inning heroics with a two-run homer with two outs in the eighth off Josh Hader, which opened a 3-2 lead. There also were some lowlights, especially in the eighth when both Maddon and reliever C.J. Edwards were ejected for arguing calls.
With the game tied at 3 in the ninth, Steve Cishek walked Erik Kratz, who was replaced by Broxton. Cishek then hit two batters to load the bases. Jesse Chavez took over, and Yelich hit a grounder to Bryant, and boom, the game was over.
"It was like the perfect storm with a plus-plus runner at third, plus-runner hitting," Bryant said. "It took me right to third. If it was a little closer to the bag, step on third, throw it to first. You just have to make a decision there, snap decision, and that's the one I think most third basemen would make going towards the bag. I don't even know how I caught the ball in the first place. It was a tough play.
"Looking back on it, I don't know what I'd do differently. Obviously, you have to try to get the out at home. Talking to [catcher Willson Contreras] and some of the guys, they said, 'I don't know if you would've had a play [at home].' You've got to live with it, it's tough."
"It was a great play by Kris," Maddon said. "He thought they had a shot to turn a double play, and that's why he did it. That's fine with me. Yelich is very fast. That's what he thought, so that's why he went in that direction. ... I told him, 'If you know for sure it's a double play, go for it, and if not, you have to go to the plate.'"
Will Bryant rethink his decision in his head?
"Not at all," Bryant said. "I can totally live with that. It was a great play. It just happened to not work out in our favor. If it did, I look like a hero. Maybe the next time, I take a shot throwing to home and hopefully we get him and live with that play, too."
The Cubs had taken a 3-2 lead in the eighth when Rizzo launched a 2-1 fastball 395 feet into the right-field bleachers, the first homer by a left-handed hitter off Hader.
"[He's a] professional hitter," Hader said. "[The pitch] was off the plate, and he did what he had to do with it. That's the game of baseball. We got the win, and the end result is what matters."
"He is the best," Rizzo said of Hader. "It's a tough matchup every time. He's got a plus fastball and plus slider. I was lucky to run into one there and put us ahead."
Monday was the start of the Cubs' final 26 regular-season games, and 16 of those will be against NL Central teams.
"You look at the record, and it's how did we get to this point -- it's been laborious," Maddon said in keeping with the Labor Day theme. "A lot of things have not clicked, particularly with the starting pitching. That's the part that may be hitting its stride at the right time. I thought it would look like this earlier in the year. Of course, Cole being here [has helped]."
Hamels has definitely provided a boost as the Cubs have tried to fill in gaps created by Tyler Chatwood's struggles and Yu Darvish's injury. On Monday, Hamels struck out five over six innings. In his seven starts with the Cubs, he has a 1.00 ERA.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Agree to disagree:Curtis Granderson and Lorenzo Cain both singled in the Brewers' eighth against Edwards, who then struck out both Yelich and Jesus Aguilar. Edwards thought he'd struck out Ryan Braun on a curve, but it was called a ball and he walked to load the bases. Edwards fell behind 1-0 to pinch-hitter Mike Moustakas, and the next pitch was called a ball. Maddon argued the calls with home-plate umpire Gabe Morales and was ejected. Edwards ended up walking Moustakas to force in the tying run. Edwards expressed his displeasure and also was ejected.
"You have to make a pitch, you make a pitch," Edwards said. "You don't get the call, you don't get the call. … It was just frustration."
"It was borderline," Maddon said of the pitch. "I'm defending my player there. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong as a manager. … I thought once I got kicked out, I thought he might be inspired."
On the move: The Brewers took a 2-1 lead in the fifth because of their baserunning. With one out, Orlando Arcia singled and was safe at second during Cain's at-bat when Hamels was charged with a balk. Arcia then scored on Cain's single to tie the game. Cain stole third and tallied on Yelich's single to take a 2-1 lead.
"That's the type of play where it's judgement," Hamels said of the balk call. "Even though I made the attempt to go to first, we still didn't get him out. You just have to make pitches. When you have the top of the lineup coming up, these guys have been hitting real well. It's just a matter of trying to make the pitches. … You have to give them credit for being able to hit the gaps against our defense."
The Cubs endured their 10th walk-off loss, most in the NL.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
With one out in the first inning, Baez singled and then scampered home when Cain misplayed Rizzo's single in center. According to Statcast™, Baez's Sprint Speed going from first to home was 29.3 feet per second, which is above the MLB average of 27 feet per second, and better than Baez's own season average of 28.8 feet per second entering play on Monday. In other words, he went from first to home in 10.70 seconds.
"As soon as Cain made the mistake, [third-base coach Brian Butterfield] was on top of it," Maddon said. More >
• Baez saluted Davies after striking out
HE SAID IT
"We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit in not taking advantage of some opportunities. It was a great game all around. The fans were into it, it was loud, nice playoff atmosphere. We can't hang our heads on this." -- Bryant
"We're not happy we walked people, they're not happy Hader gave up a home run. It's Major League Baseball in September. Both teams played well, and they beat us." -- Maddon
Mike Montgomery (4-4, 3.82 ERA) will make his second start since coming off the DL in the second game of this series with the Brewers on Tuesday. So far as a starter, Montgomery is 4-3 with a 3.38 ERA in 14 games. He lost his only start against the Brewers this year on June 13 despite giving up just one run over six innings. The Brewers will counter with Wade Miley (2-2, 2.18). First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. CT from Miller Park.