MILWAUKEE -- All the Cubs want to do is win series, and they did just that on Sunday, rallying from a four-run deficit to beat the Brewers, 6-5, in front of a sellout crowd of 43,310 at Miller Park. Anthony Rizzo sparked a five-run seventh with a go-ahead three-run double
MILWAUKEE -- All the Cubs want to do is win series, and they did just that on Sunday, rallying from a four-run deficit to beat the Brewers, 6-5, in front of a sellout crowd of 43,310 at Miller Park. Anthony Rizzo sparked a five-run seventh with a go-ahead three-run double to give Chicago its third straight series win since the All-Star break, a first for the franchise since it won five series in a row after the break in 1936.
The Brewers got a solid outing from starter Junior Guerra and ran at will against Chicago's Jon Lester, who was knocked out after four-plus innings. Trailing 4-1 in the seventh, Tommy La Stella hit an RBI double off the Brewers' Will Smith, and the Cubs then loaded the bases to set up Rizzo, who lined a double to the right-center-field gap to open a 5-4 lead and raise his RBI total to 75. Ben Zobrist then drove in Rizzo with an RBI single.
"There were a lot of moments in that game," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "We had some opportunities to add on runs in general, to score runs, and we didn't capture those opportunities. Then we had a couple defensive mistakes that hurt us. You combine those two things, and it kind of spoiled what was a great day by Junior Guerra again."
Joe Nathan, making his Cubs debut, picked up the win in relief, his first in the big leagues since Sept. 23, 2014.
"It was Opening Day for me today," said Nathan, who admitted he was nervous. "I think the run in [from the bullpen], I almost needed a defibrillator. I was trying to calm myself down as best I could."
The Brewers kept the Cubs on their toes, though, finishing with a season-high six stolen bases, while Kirk Nieuwenhuis made it interesting with a two-out solo homer in the ninth.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Ground and pound: The Brewers knocked Lester out after the left-hander loaded the bases without recording an out in the fifth, and then Scooter Gennett delivered a two-run single against the Cubs' bullpen. Behind 1-2 in the count against the lefty Clayton Richard, Gennett pounded a ball into the ground that bounced high enough to evade the outstretched glove of third baseman Kris Bryant. Hernán Pérez and Ryan Braun scored to extend the Brewers' lead to 4-0.
"We did a nice job against Lester, making him throw pitches," Counsell said. "But we just didn't do enough at the end with the defensive miscues and just not moving the line along with contact in some situations hurt us."
On the run: Lester's struggles throwing to first base with a runner on are well known, and the Brewers took full advantage in the first. Jonathan Villar walked, stole second and before Lester could even throw the next pitch, he took third. Villar then scored on a Perez sacrifice fly. Five of Milwaukee's steals came against Lester, matching the most against the lefty, done last Aug. 13, also by the Brewers. Catcher David Ross did throw out Jake Elmore trying to steal second in the fourth.
"We've been aggressive on the bases all year," Counsell said. "It's something that we've done all year and we'll continue to do. So if there's pitchers out there that give us the opportunity to run, we're going to try to run."
Said Cubs manager Joe Maddon: "It's just a matter of you have to keep the right guys off the base. They did a nice job and gave me something to think about. We have to respond in our own way."
No glue for Elmore: The five runs that came around to score in the Cubs' seventh off Smith may have never happened had the Brewers' fielding been crisp. With one out, pinch-hitter Matt Szczur laced a grounder at Elmore, who was unable to field the ball cleanly. The play was ruled an error, and could have possibly been a double play to end the inning. Instead, the next four batters reached and Milwaukee's lead vanished.
"It's hard-hit, but it's also a double play ball," Counsell said.
Welcome back: Nathan, 41, who had been rehabbing from his second Tommy John surgery, joined the Cubs on Sunday and made his debut in the sixth. Villar rudely welcomed him back by lining his second pitch into the right field corner for a triple. Nathan walked Perez, but then struck out Braun, Jonathan Lucroy and Chris Carter. This was Nathan's first game in the big leagues since April 6, 2015, when he pitched one-third of an inning for the Tigers.
"That game was a little bit wacky. Four hours, 15 minutes." -- Nieuwenhuis, on the long, up-and-down game.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Milwaukee's six steals were the most by the team in a game at Miller Park since the stadium opened in 2001. Villar, Braun and Perez had two apiece, with Villar increasing his MLB-best total to 36. As a team, the Brewers lead the league in stolen bases with 93 on the season.
Smith's final line read zero innings pitched, five runs (four earned), three hits and a walk. The southpaw tied the Brewers record for most runs allowed by a reliever in a game without recording an out. It was the ninth time a pitcher had allowed five in franchise history -- including one such game by Smith himself on July 10, 2014.
Rizzo has hit safely in 39 of his last 47 games and was batting .343 with 18 doubles, a triple, 13 homers and 40 RBIs in his last 47 games.
Cubs shortstop Addison Russell was removed from the game before the bottom of the fourth because of a left heel contusion as a precautionary measure and will be re-evaluated on Monday.
Brewers third baseman Will Middlebrooks also exited the game, suffering a lower right leg strain while running out a fly ball in the third.
The Brewers successfully challenged the call that Zobrist was safe at second base on an attempted steal in the fourth. Replay showed that Gennett's tag beat a sliding Zobrist's foot to the base. Milwaukee improved to 12-13 on challenges this season.
In the Milwaukee fifth, the Cubs challenged whether Lucroy was safe at third trying to advance on Gennett's two-run single. The call was confirmed.
For the second time in the game, a play involving Zobrist attempting to steal second was reviewed. A crew chief review confirmed the call that Zobrist was out at second to end the Cubs' five-run seventh.
Cubs:Jake Arrieta will open the Cubs' four-game Interleague series against their city rivals, the White Sox, on Monday at U.S. Cellular Field. Arrieta is 3-1 with a 3.82 ERA in six career starts against the White Sox. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. CT.
Brewers: For the first time since being traded to Milwaukee from Arizona this offseason, Chase Anderson will face the D-backs when he throws the first pitch of the game at 7:10 p.m. CT at Miller Park. The game kicks off a four-game series and also marks the first return to Milwaukee in an opposing uniform for former Brewers Jean Segura and Rickie Weeks Jr.
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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.
Curt Hogg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Milwaukee.