CHICAGO – Talk about taking out your frustrations.
With the news that Jimmy Nelson would miss the remainder of the season with a right-shoulder injury still fresh in their minds, the Milwaukee Brewers responded by putting an absolute whipping on the Chicago Cubs on Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field.
The Brewers scored eight runs in the third inning to put the game out of reach, then didn’t take their collective foot off the gas pedal until they’d registered a season high in beating the Cubs, 15-2, in front of a largely silent crowd of 41,167.
Milwaukee has now shaved two games off Chicago’s lead in the Central Division in less than 24 hours, leaving the deficit at three heading into Sunday’s series finale. The Brewers have outscored the Cubs by a combined score of 28-4 in winning their last three games at Wrigley Field.
Every starter but Ryan Braun had at least one hit, Keon Broxton and Orlando Arcia combined to reach base eight times and score six runs in the bottom third of the lineup and even starting pitcher Chase Anderson had a pair of singles and two runs batted in as Milwaukee’s previously moribund offense came alive.
Originally scheduled to face right-hander Jake Arrieta, the Brewers instead drew left-hander Mike Montgomery – the same pitcher who was on the mound to start Milwaukee’s 11-2 drubbing of Chicago in the teams’ “rainout” makeup game on July 6 at Wrigley Field.
The Brewers used a seven-run third in that one to break the game open. They bettered that effort by a run in this one, with the first eight batters reaching base and scoring in the third.
Montgomery opened by sandwiching a pair of walks around a Domingo Santana single, then surrendered a two-RBI double down the first-base line to Travis Shaw. Cubs manager Joe Maddon quickly pulled the plug on Montgomery, replacing him with Justin Grimm.
Grimm almost immediately balked in Braun, then after a Manny Piña single, Jesús Aguilar blooped a single of his own to short center that scored Shaw. Broxton followed with a walk to load the bases again.
Arcia, up next, doubled to right to drive in Aguilar and Piña to up the advantage to 6-0. Anderson then helped his cause with a sacrifice bunt to plate Broxton, and Hernán Pérez’s sacrifice fly to left drove in Arcia to complete the scoring.
Sending 11 batters to the plate, scoring eight times, collecting five hits, drawing three walks and sacrificing twice – it was precisely the kind of offensive inning the Brewers had been lacking.
The eight-run inning, meanwhile, was the Brewers’ third of the season and first since July 14 against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Staked to that huge advantage, Anderson was able to set himself on cruise control.
He faced the minimum through three, and the Cubs didn’t have a baserunner reach until the fourth, when Kris Bryant drew a one-out walk. Ben Zobrist’s two-out single gave Chicago its first hit, but Albert Almora, Jr. grounded out and Anderson was through four scoreless.
The Brewers added three more runs in the fifth to tie their season high, thanks to an Anderson single and a two-run home run off the left-field foul pole from Pérez.
Anderson’s day was done after the bottom of the frame, and he left having accounted for one more hit – two – than he allowed the Cubs. He also walked one and struck out three on a total of 67 pitches.
Milwaukee scored three times in the sixth as well and added a final run in the eighth.
The Cubs broke up the shutout in the eighth on Kyle Schwarber’s homer off Junior Guerra and tacked on their final run in the ninth against rookie Taylor Williams.
BEHIND THE BOX SCORE
• Braun became the 12th active player to reach the 300-homer plateau on Friday. He joined Albert Pujols (612), Adrian Beltre (461), Miguel Cabrera (460), Carlos Beltran (435), Edwin Encarnacion (344), José Bautista (330), Prince Fielder (319), Curtis Granderson (316), Nelson Cruz (315), Matt Holliday (313) and Adrián González (310) in the exclusive club
• The Brewers clinched the sixth season of 200-plus homers in franchise history on Braun’s homer Friday. At their current pace of 1.4 per game, this current group is on pace to finish with 229 – two fewer than the team record of 231 set in 2007.
• Braun entered Saturday with 15 career homers at Wrigley Field. That’s the second-most of any visiting ballpark behind Great American Ball Park (25).
Victories don’t get much sweeter than this. Literally everything went right for the Brewers, who put the game out of reach early and then kept tacking onto their lead. They were able to ease off Anderson and spread the work around the rest of the way with the result in the bag. Now, can the Brewers carry the momentum over to Sunday for the sweep?
This year: 74-68 (39-32 home; 35-36 away)
Last year: 63-79
Sunday: Brewers at Cubs, 1:20 p.m. Milwaukee RHP Zach Davies (16-8, 3.77) vs. Chicago RHP Kyle Hendricks (6-4, 3.29). TV: FS Wisconsin. Radio: FM-94.5.