MILWAUKEE -- If it was not the best outing by a Brewers starting pitcher this season, it was the most imperative. Chase Anderson needed a night like this. So did his team.Snapping the Brewers' seven-game skid against the Cubs, Anderson pitched seven stellar innings while allowing just one dribbler of
MILWAUKEE -- If it was not the best outing by a Brewers starting pitcher this season, it was the most imperative. Chase Anderson needed a night like this. So did his team.
Snapping the Brewers' seven-game skid against the Cubs, Anderson pitched seven stellar innings while allowing just one dribbler of a hit in a 4-0 win Tuesday, making Milwaukee the first National League team to reach 40 victories.
With their first shutout victory over the Cubs at Miller Park in four years, the Brewers (40-27) moved back atop the NL Central, a half-game ahead of Chicago (38-26).
"We know our record against the Cubs this year isn't great head to head, but every game counts. Shoot, we have 40 wins now," Anderson said.
Travis Shaw provided the run support with a pair of two-run doubles off Cubs starter Tyler Chatwood, the second coming in the third inning after Lorenzo Cain's heads-up baserunning helped foil a Chicago rundown. Anderson did the rest, throwing 107 pitches -- a season-high for the bullpen-fueled Brewers -- and retiring the final 17 batters he faced after Willson Contreras tapped an infield single along the third-base line in the second inning.
Anderson walked two and struck out six in his first scoreless start since Opening Day, when he allowed only one hit in an extra-inning win at San Diego. It had been a roller coaster since then for the right-hander, who followed a 2.86 ERA in March and April with a 7.08 ERA in May, and had surrendered six earned runs in his first 10 innings of June.
Tuesday was more like the Anderson of 2017, when he posted a 2.74 ERA in 25 starts and earned his Opening Day assignment. And it came at just the right time, with reliever Matt Albers landing on the 10-day disabled list with a shoulder injury, Josh Hader unavailable after 35 pitches the night before, and Jeremy Jeffress and Corey Knebel also a day removed from pitching in Monday's series-opening, 11-inning loss.
"It was humid out there. It felt like I was back home playing summer ball in Texas," Anderson said. "My arm has been feeling pretty good overall. Tonight was the best I felt since I came back off the DL [for an illness]. It's good to know that it's still in the tank."
With Tuesday's effort, Anderson lowered his career ERA against the Cubs to 2.91 in 57 2/3 innings, including 1.35 in 20 innings over three starts this season.
"It was Chase getting back to what we saw last year," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell. "You could tell right away that his fastball, specifically, had a different gear tonight. Just by the hitters' swings."
The radar gun concurred. Anderson struck out Anthony Rizzo to end the first inning with a 95.7-mph fastball -- Anderson's fastest pitch all season.
Taylor Williams and Jacob Barnes completed the two-hitter, giving the Brewers a chance to win the series on Wednesday afternoon behind Jhoulys Chacin. They are 11-3 when he takes the mound.
"Obviously we haven't had a whole lot of success against [the Cubs]," said Brewers left fielder Christian Yelich, "but we really have played a lot of close games and they've made plays and pitches when they needed to make them to win those games. It's not like we've been blown out by 10 runs every single game."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Early lead: Anderson said it was the early lead that allowed him to settle into his best start in weeks. Brewers hitters provided it in the first inning, when Eric Thames singled in the first at-bat of his first start off the disabled list to spark a rally that led to Shaw's two-run double off a 3-0 pitch from Chatwood.
"We're pretty good when we score first," Shaw said. "Once we got ahead, [Anderson] attacked the hitters and got ahead of everybody. He was pretty dominant."
The Rundown: Cain's brilliant baserunning led to Shaw's other big hit. With Yelich caught off second base in a third-inning rundown on Cain's grounder up the middle, Cain stopped short of second base and noticed that Cubs defenders had vacated first. So he motioned for Yelich to get back to the bag, and it worked. With everyone safe, Shaw had two more runners to drive home with his second double of the night.
"You talk about seeing the court, seeing the floor, as a basketball analogy," Counsell said. "That's seeing the field and understanding what's happening. I tip my cap to that. That was incredible." More >
To find the last time the Brewers limited the Cubs to two or fewer hits in a home game, you have to go back to County Stadium. It was July 1, 2000, when Jeff D'Amico pitched eight scoreless innings and Curt Leskanic worked a hitless ninth in a 4-0 Brewers win.
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With their high-leverage bullpen arms in need of a day off, Counsell sent Anderson back to the mound at 99 pitches to begin the seventh inning against the Cubs' 2-3-4 hitters. The first two made hard contact, Kristopher Bryant on a flyout to deep left field and Rizzo on a lineout to first baseman Thames, before Thames made a diving play of a Benjamin Zobrist bouncer to end Anderson's outing. It was Thames' biggest test of his first start back from left thumb surgery, an injury he suffered on a similar play.
Chacin will face the Cubs for the first time in a Brewers uniform when the teams conclude their series at 1:10 p.m. CT on Wednesday. Chacin is 5-0 with a 2.92 ERA over his past 11 starts, and the Brewers are 11-3 when he takes the mound, but he happened to not pitch in either of the teams' four-game series in April. He has a 3.82 ERA in seven career games (six starts) against the Cubs for other clubs. Left-hander Mike Montgomery starts for Chicago.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.