The Brewers got seven RBI from Jonathan Lucroy and a career-high five hits from Rickie Weeks on Thursday. What they didn’t get was a victory, as Milwaukee pitchers walked 11 batters and blew leads of 9-3 in the sixth and 11-9 in the ninth in a 12-11 loss to the Cubs.
The latest huge letdown from the Milwaukee pen came on a day in which closer John Axford was unavailable. Francisco Rodriguez gave up three runs in the ninth to take his seventh blown save and seventh loss.
Lucroy, incredibly, delivered his second seven-RBI game of the season in a losing cause. He had a grand slam off Cubs starter Brooks Riley and three hits in all. Lucroy is the 24th player since 1918 to amass two seven-RBI games in a season, joining such luminaries as Lou Gehrig (3 times in 1930 and twice in 1934), Babe Ruth (1929), Jimmie Foxx (1933 and ’38) and Ralph Kiner (1950 and ’51). Ben Zobrist was the last to do it in 2011. Before him, it was done by Derrek Lee in 2009 and Cody Ross in 2006.
Lucroy was the fourth player in the last five years to drive in seven runs in a losing cause, joining Kansas City’s Jose Guillen (2008 against NYY), Minnesota’s Justin Morneau (2009 against Oakland) and Philadelphia’s Carlos Ruiz (2012 against Atlanta). He’s the first player in Brewers history to pull it off.
The Cubs won the game without the benefit of a homer. They did have six doubles, two each from David DeJesus, Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson, and a triple from Starlin Castro. Alfonso Soriano delivered the game-winner in the ninth.
Riley was let off the hook after allowing seven runs and 10 hits in four innings. He’s expected to be shut down for the rest of the season, leaving him with an 8.14 ERA in five starts as a rookie. Brewers starter Shaun Marcum returned from the DL only to leave with a calf injury after allowing three runs in four innings.
The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.
After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.
But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.
- They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
- They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
- They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
- They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.
The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.
Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.