Capitalizing on two more Brewers errors in a homestand full of them, plus the absence of strikeout-inducing closer Corey Knebel, the Cubs put the ball in play enough to score four times in the top of the ninth for a 5-2 win at Miller Park. The high-wire Brewers, after being two outs away from what would have been their fifth win in their final inning at-bat, found themselves on the other end of a ninth-inning comeback.
"We know at some point, other teams will do it to us," said fill-in closer Jacob Barnes. "We just have to try to limit it as much as possible."
Brewers manager Craig Counsell wasn't shaken.
"There's no reason to shake your head at it," Counsell said. "It's fun baseball. You enjoy it. It was a great ballgame, an entertaining game. We didn't make a couple plays in the end."
Eric Thames' home run leading off the fourth inning and Lorenzo Cain's sacrifice fly in the eighth gave Milwaukee a 2-1 lead entering the final frame, and when Barnes retired the first man he faced, the Brewers were on the brink of their first error-free day on an opening homestand in its sixth game. That ended when Victor Caratini sparked the Cubs' winning rally with an infield hit to shortstop Orlando Arcia, whose off-balance, one-hop throw past first base pushed the tying runner into scoring position.
Barnes found himself in even bigger trouble after Jason Heyward walked and Javier Baez reached on Shaw's costly fielding error, loading the bases with one out for pinch-hitter Ben Zobrist's tying infield hit to a diving Thames.
At that point, the Cubs had sent five men to the plate in the inning against Barnes, none of whom hit a ball past the infield.
On both the Baez and Zobrist grounders, Counsell said, at least one out was available. The Brewers did not get either.
Slumping Chicago leadoff hitter Ian Happ promptly cashed in, lining a go-ahead, two-run single to left-center field. Cubs pitcher Jon Lester added insurance with a pinch-hit squeeze bunt, and new Cubs closer Brandon Morrow logged his first save with a scoreless bottom of the ninth.
"You execute pitches, and unfortunately sometimes it goes in the wrong spot," Barnes said. "That's all you can do. I look back -- and obviously it's frustrating, no one wants to give up runs, but at least I executed pretty well for the most part."
Barnes did not mention the errors. Counsell did.
"We've made too many infield mistakes, there's no question," Counsell said, referring to the fact that nine of Milwaukee's 11 errors this week occurred on the infield.
When the Brewers broke camp, did Counsell expect this to be a good defensive infield?
"I think they are a good defensive infield," Counsell said. "We've made defensive mistakes the last couple of games."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED What could have been: Shaw's error was the most costly miscue in the decisive ninth. While the unanimous consensus in the Brewers' clubhouse was that the ball was hit too softly by the speedy Baez to turn a game-ending double play, Shaw himself conceded that he had plenty of time to get an out at either second or third base.
"It was one of those top-spin ones," said Shaw. "I kind of froze on it. I just misplayed it. You either got to go get it or go back. I kind of just froze there and got caught in an in-between hop and misplayed it."
On the board: On a sunny, difficult day to hit, the Brewers' only baserunner in the first three innings against Cubs starter Yu Darvish reached via Ryan Braun's two-out walk in the first inning, but Thames broke through leading off the fourth when he connected with a full-count slider from Darvish and lined a home run to the right-field seats. Thames, who also homered in Thursday's series opener and is part of Milwaukee's crowded outfield and first-base picture, has hit safely in all five of his starts with three home runs.
Bryant answers:Zach Davies started for the Brewers and had an effective changeup, inducing five swinging strikes in 19 pitches including strike threes against Happ and Kyle Schwarber in the top of the first inning. But Kris Bryant didn't miss a changeup low in the zone leading off the sixth, lifting a tying home run that traveled a Statcast-projected 407 feet and left his bat at 108.8 mph, making it the hardest ball in play up to that point in the game. Bryant led the way for the Cubs with three hits, and reached safely all five times up.
"I was happy to use [the changeup] in pretty much every situation," said Davies, who limited the damage to that run in the sixth inning for the Brewers' first quality start since Chase Anderson's on Opening Day. "I thought [the Bryant homer] was a good pitch. My thought process was, I hadn't thrown many 3-2 changeups against him in the past. He got under it and it got out of the park."
QUOTABLE "I didn't feel much more pressure, to tell you the truth, and I thought I pitched pretty well. Obviously, there were runs given up, and no one ever wants to do that. But it wasn't hit hard. They literally didn't leave the infield besides [Happ's hit]." -- Barnes, on being chosen for the Brewers' first save situation since Knebel went down with a hamstring injury
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY Davies danced his way out of trouble to briefly preserve a 1-0 lead in the fifth, when the Cubs put their first runners in scoring position with Tommy La Stella's single followed by Caratini's double to start the inning. The next batter was Heyward, who hit a bouncer to the first-base side of the mound. Davies chased it down, did a counterclockwise pirouette and fired a throw home to catcher Jett Bandy to retire La Stella. The Cubs challenged the call, but it stood upon review, as La Stella's lead leg appeared to be elevated over home plate. Davies went on to walk Baez to load the bases, but managed to escape without a run scoring.
WHAT'S NEXT The Brewers will seek sources of offense for Anderson, who followed six scoreless innings on Opening Day with a four-inning, four-run outing against the Cardinals in his home debut. Outfielder Christian Yelich, still dealing with discomfort in his right oblique, is "doubtful" for Sunday's 1:10 p.m. CT series finale against the Cubs, according to Counsell. Anderson has a 3.79 ERA in seven career starts against the Cubs.