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Swarzak endures eventful Brewers debut

Right-hander, acquired from White Sox Wednesday, registers hold in win Friday
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell threw his newest reliever directly into the race for the National League Central. Anthony Swarzak didn't want it any other way.

Swarzak survived a harrowing Brewers debut in Friday's 2-1 win over the Cubs, grinding through an eighth inning that included a near-home run, a no-doubt home run and a defensive gem. By holding the lead through it all, Swarzak helped lift the Brewers to within a half-game of the first-place Cubs.

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MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell threw his newest reliever directly into the race for the National League Central. Anthony Swarzak didn't want it any other way.

Swarzak survived a harrowing Brewers debut in Friday's 2-1 win over the Cubs, grinding through an eighth inning that included a near-home run, a no-doubt home run and a defensive gem. By holding the lead through it all, Swarzak helped lift the Brewers to within a half-game of the first-place Cubs.

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"I think that's the best way to do it, throw the guy in the fire and see what happens," said Swarzak, who was in uniform with the Brewers beginning Thursday following a trade from the White Sox but didn't pitch in a blowout loss at Washington.

On Friday, a lot happened.

Inheriting a 2-0 lead, Swarzak hung his head when Addison Russell led off the eighth with a deep drive to right field. Swarzak had seen enough baseballs at Miller Park to know that's a danger zone for a fly ball, but Domingo Santana caught it at the warning track.

Javier Baez followed by hitting a fly ball where it couldn't be caught. Baez's solo homer off a Swarzak slider smashed into the windows of the club high above left field, cutting Milwaukee's lead in half with one swing.

Did Russell's near-homer impact the following pitch?

"No, not at all," Swarzak said. "I think I was a little pumped up tonight. Throwing in front of a new team, a new crowd and big situation, you kind of want to prove yourself all over again, and I fell into that trap just kind of trying to throw too hard. That one didn't move and he got all of it."

The next batter was a pinch-hitter, Ben Zobrist, who popped a pitch to the end of the Cubs' dugout, where Brewers third baseman Travis Shaw reached over the railing and made a terrific catch.

Video: CHC@MIL: Shaw reaches into dugout for impressive snag

It was an out that reset the inning for Swarzak. But just barely.

"I didn't realize I had caught it, to be honest with you," said Shaw, who went 0-for-4 but turned in three defensive gems. "Looking on the replay, that's as far as I could reach. I kind of just felt something in there. If I'm not getting any hits, they're not getting any hits."

Swarzak walked Jon Jay but preserved the 2-1 lead by retiring Kris Bryant on a slow roller to first base. With that, his eventful Brewers debut was in the books.

"I had a clean inning, and I made my own mess out there," Swarzak said. "It wasn't anyone's fault but my own. I have to execute better. To walk the guy and give up a home run in the same inning, in a two-run game in the eighth inning with the situation is what it is, with the division and stuff, I've got to do a better job with that.

"With all that being said, we battled and we won the game. That's all that matters. I'm not hanging my head whatsoever. It was a good game. Team win. We move on and go get them [Saturday]."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Milwaukee Brewers, Anthony Swarzak