MILWAUKEE -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon tried to downplay the start of a three-game series against the Brewers, saying it was just another Monday in June. Instead, it felt a little like October baseball.Jason Heyward hit a game-tying RBI single off Josh Hader in the eighth inning and Anthony Rizzo
MILWAUKEE -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon tried to downplay the start of a three-game series against the Brewers, saying it was just another Monday in June. Instead, it felt a little like October baseball.
Jason Heyward hit a game-tying RBI single off Josh Hader in the eighth inning and Anthony Rizzo smacked a game-winning leadoff homer to spark a five-run 11th and lift the Cubs to a 7-2 victory over the Brewers at Miller Park. With the win, the Cubs moved into first place in the National League Central for the first time since May 1. They lead Milwaukee by a half-game.
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Maybe it's because they've played in the postseason in the last three years, but the Cubs don't panic when they trail late in the game.
"Our guys are loose cannons in the dugout," Maddon said. "There are no tight butts. It's interesting to listen to the conversation even in a tight game. They're in the present tense, and that's all I can ask for."
With the game tied at 2 in the 11th, Rizzo launched the first pitch from Matt Albers 410 feet into the right-field bleachers for his 11th home run. He now has driven in a run in each of his last eight games and has 23 RBIs in his last 22 games. This was his fourth career extra-inning home run.
Rizzo's home run was well struck, recording an exit velocity of 110.7 mph, and is his fourth-hardest home run since Statcast™ began tracking in 2015. It's also his hardest hit home run since April 20, 2016. He had fouled a ball that same direction into the upper deck in the eighth, but Statcast™ didn't get a reading on it.
"As soon as it left the bat [in the eighth], you knew it was hooking foul," Maddon said, "and that one [in the 11th], you knew did not have enough hook to go foul and it would be a homer."
Benjamin Zobrist and Albert Almora Jr. each added RBI singles, and Heyward hit a two-run double in the 11th to give Randy Rosario the win after two perfect innings of relief. Chicago is now 8-1 against Milwaukee this season.
"It's fun playing here," Rizzo said. "They're a good team. The fans are into it. They're engaged. You've got the Cubs fans and Brewers fans going at it the whole game. These are tough games. We know they're tough games. Which way is the ball going to fall? And for us, it's fallen our way."
Scoring against Hader may have been the key. The Brewers were 21-0 before Monday when the lefty pitched this season.
"I don't think there's any sense of panic with whatever happens," Rizzo said. "They have a guy who is unhittable come in the game and we somehow scratch a run off him and no one is fazed. We're grinding at-bats out, and it's an organization-wide mentality of not giving up and we do a good job of that."
Chicago starter Jose Quintana had not given up a home run to any Brewers hitters over 43 career innings prior to Monday's start. Twice, the Brewers seemed to figure him out.
Erik Kratz and Jonathan Villar both hit solo homers off Quintana. Kratz ended Quintana's string of consecutive scoreless innings against the Brewers at 26 when he led off the third with his third home run. Villar connected with one out in the fifth. Quintana, who allowed just the two runs over six otherwise strong innings now has given up five earned runs over 49 innings in seven career starts against Milwaukee.
"We face these guys a lot, so we know what they're going to do," Quintana said. "I'm really happy we took the first game. It's a huge series for us."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Rally time: With the Brewers leading 2-1 in the eighth, pinch-hitter Zobrist led off with a walk against Hader. Zobrist then gambled and advanced on Almora's fly ball to center, although he would've been out if Villar held onto the relay throw. Heyward singled to right, just the third hit by a left-handed hitter this season off Hader -- and a solid one with an exit velocity of 107 mph -- and Zobrist scored the tying run.
"It was a great play on his part," Maddon said of Zobrist tagging up. "If they make a clean swipe at it, he's probably out. We want him to tag up. When a ball is hit deeply like that and you know a guy is camped [under it] and you're at first base, that's when you want to retreat and tag. If there's any doubt it might get over his head, you really can't do that. He knew it would be caught and did the right thing.
"He understands the importance of not making an out. Some guys only understand the importance of trying to get a hit. He knows not making an out is vital. That's why he's been so good for so long and that's why he's still pertinent."
Heyward extended his hitting streak to a season-high six games, and he's batting .370 (10-for-27) in that stretch. He's also had some big hits against tough left-handed pitchers, including Hader.
"He's swinging the bat really well," Maddon said. "His setup is entirely different, and with that, he's making a better pass at the baseball, and that's it. There's nothing new or different from him. He's just setting up better. You see how the ball is coming off the bat. It's snapping and there's no push in his swing. That's the difference."
Said Heyward: "I just feel like I'm able to make adjustments on the fly and keep it simple and know I don't have to think too much. I know what I'm trying to use, just trying to use my hands. After that, you're able to focus on who you're facing on the mound and that's the thing at the end of the day. Good guy or good stuff or not, you've got to try to hit strikes and keep it simple."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun made a diving, tumbling catch of Rizzo's fly ball in the fourth and then deked everyone in Miller Park in the sixth when he robbed Willson Contreras of a potential home run with a leaping grab at the wall. Braun hid the ball behind him and delayed his trot toward the dugout after recording the third out.
HE SAID IT
"The last two times he's walked, we've won the game. If he could walk a couple more times, maybe we could keep that pace up." -- Rizzo, joking about Baez, who drew a walk in the 11th inning. It was Baez's eighth walk of the season, and half have been intentional.
"There's a reason they've had the success they've had. They do all the little things well, they don't make mistakes. We still have to get better at some of those things I think to consistently play as good of baseball as they do, and obviously, they have experience of playing good teams in big situations." -- Braun, on the Cubs
Tyler Chatwood will start Game 2 of this three-game series at Miller Park on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. CT. The Cubs like what the right-hander is doing, even if the numbers don't look too good. Chatwood has walked 56 over 58 1/3 innings this season after issuing seven free passes in his last start against the Phillies. It was the eighth time in 12 starts that he'd walked at least five. He had his best outing of the season against the Brewers on April 29, giving up two hits and three walks over seven scoreless innings.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.