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Gamel, Yelich fuel Crew's rally after Gio deals

@AdamMcCalvy
July 27, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- If the Brewers keep winning, they can help convince president of baseball operations David Stearns to go shopping at Wednesday's Trade Deadline. But if their starting pitchers keep leaving games with injuries, Stearns is going to need a bigger cart. Not to mention more prospects to spend. While

MILWAUKEE -- If the Brewers keep winning, they can help convince president of baseball operations David Stearns to go shopping at Wednesday's Trade Deadline.

But if their starting pitchers keep leaving games with injuries, Stearns is going to need a bigger cart. Not to mention more prospects to spend.

While Stearns and his staff continued Deadline prep behind the scenes, Christian Yelich hit a two-out single in the seventh inning before Ben Gamel delivered a two-out, two-run single in the eighth for a 3-2 win over the Cubs at Miller Park that temporarily eased the pain of Gio Gonzalez's departure with what his team hopes is just a bout of shoulder tightness.

Box score

The Brewers opened a huge weekend series with their seventh win in 10 games to remain two games off the lead in the National League Central. They also saw their starting pitcher exit early for the third time in six days.

"That's kind of how it's been this season," Gamel said. "But we're going to keep fighting, keep clawing."

Watch MLB Network for around-the-clock Trade Deadline coverage

The Cubs didn't log a hit off Gonzalez until the sixth, when Albert Almora Jr. legged out a broken-bat single and David Bote followed with a home run. Gonzalez finished that inning and returned for the seventh only to make an unexpected exit in favor of Adrian Houser, who combined with Josh Hader to keep the Cubs off the board the rest of the way while Milwaukee's hitters mounted a comeback.

The Cubs helped out the home team in the decisive eighth, when Brandon Kintzler walked Keston Hiura and hit Eric Thames with a pitch. Pedro Strop relieved Kintzler and hit Ryan Braun with the first pitch to load the bases. After Jesus Aguilar popped out, Gamel lined a 1-0 fastball into right-center field for the lead.

Gamel has four game-winning RBIs this season, one fewer than Ryan Braun and two fewer than Yasmani Grandal, in spite of more limited playing time.

"The guy's been huge all year," said Brewers center fielder Lorenzo Cain. "I feel like he's hitting .400 with the way he's been swinging the bat. A lot of lineouts, a lot of big hits. He's been playing great defense, too. All of the above, he's been flat-out getting it done."

Cain helped set the tone for a well-played defensive game in the top of the first inning, when he charged to catch Anthony Rizzo's sinking line drive and doubled up Kris Bryant off first base.

Cubs left fielder Ian Happ answered with a sliding catch in foul territory to end the first inning, and Gonzalez and right fielder Eric Thames each made nice plays in a 1-2-3 top of the second. They helped Gonzalez face the minimum through five innings before he finally made a mistake to Bote with a mislocated fastball.

A tightly contested game shouldn't have surprised anyone. With the Trade Deadline looming next week and both teams' bosses weighing how heavily to spend in terms of the prospects it will take to address their respective weakness, the importance of this weekend series goes beyond the standings.

"I think it helps for us to win games," said Counsell, fighting a grin, "as it would in any situation."

The Brewers are two games behind the division-leading Cardinals and one game behind the Cubs. That's despite a number of pitching issues, starting with a spate of injuries that sent All-Star Starter Brandon Woodruff (left oblique) and Opening Day starter Jhoulys Chacin (right lat) to the 10-day injured list this week. Houser is a candidate to rejoin the rotation next week at Oakland, and barring an outside move the Brewers may have to pull Freddy Peralta back into a starting role, too, since Milwaukee has mostly depleted its organizational depth.

Yes, the Trade Deadline offers a way to fill holes. But the Brewers' farm system was depleted last year by trades for Yelich, Mike Moustakas and others, so Stearns is not dealing from a deep pool of prospects. Yet, in spite of their warts, the Brewers are right in the thick of the division and Wild Card races.

"I think this is a function of where the league sits as much as anything," Counsell said on Friday afternoon. "It's a balanced league right now. That means wins are a lot harder to get. It's a lot harder for teams to roll off big stretches of wins. This is where we're at."

Does that make this weekend's series against the Cubs at Miller Park, and next weekend's rematch at Wrigley Field, bigger than your average stretch of games?

"If you are in it and there's proximity, then every series you play is going to be big," Counsell said. "It's a fun series. It's not going to decide anything. There's a long way to go. ... It's a team ahead of you in your division. That's all you've got to say."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.