Bryant blast in 10th helps Cubs beat Brewers
MILWAUKEE — Losses are always painful this time of year, but for the Milwaukee Brewers, their 5-3 defeat to the Chicago Cubs on Thursday night at Miller Park was pure agony.
In the opener of a four-game National League Central showdown, Milwaukee rallied late and took a 3-2 lead on Eric Thames’ RBI single in the eighth, but the Brewers’ thin bullpen couldn’t hold on.
Jeremy Jeffress allowed the tying run in the ninth, and Kris Bryant belted a go-ahead two-run home run off Oliver Drake in the 10th inning to seal the Cubs’ eighth victory in their last nine games.
Thanks to Bryant’s 3-for-4 effort, first-place Chicago extended its division lead over second-place Milwaukee to 4 1/2 games.
“Every loss is going to be incredibly tough right now,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “We have to wipe it away.”
The late collapse spoiled an outstanding effort from Milwaukee starter Zach Davies, who held the Cubs to two runs on seven hits and two walks — one intentional — in seven innings. He gave the Brewers’ strained bullpen a much-needed break.
“He did his job, he got seven innings,” Counsell said. “That was the ideal scenario.”
Jake Arrieta worked five innings in his first start since Sept. 4. He missed his previous two turns in the rotation because of a strained hamstring but was cleared earlier this week. Arrieta held Milwaukee to a run — a solo homer by Domingo Santana — on five hits with a walk and two strikeouts.
Kyle Schwarber gave him an early lead, taking Davies deep to left with one out in the second for his 29th home run of the season. The Cubs added another run in the third on Anthony Rizzo’s RBI single.
Chicago reliever Carl Edwards preserved the lead with a quiet sixth inning, and Brain Duensing got some help when Manny Pina bounced into a double play with one on and nobody out in the seventh.
However, after pinch hitter Keon Broxton drew a walk, the Cubs turned to Pedro Strop to face another pinch hitter, Jesus Aguilar, who drew another walk. Eric Sogard then ripped a line drive single in the right, driving in Broxton to tie the game at 2.
Santana led off the eighth with a double off Justin Grimm, then stole third before Thames sent him home with a base hit to put Milwaukee in front.
Grimm got out of the inning, but Jeffress, filling in for Corey Knebel — unavailable after working three straight games — got burned in the ninth.
Jeffress gave up a leadoff single to Ian Happ but retired his next two batters. He had Javier Baez down to his last strike, but the Cubs second baseman dug a 2-2 breaking ball out of the dirt and ripped it into center for an RBI single.
“It was a pretty special game,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Javy has been there before. The hit in San Francisco, two strikes, almost the same hit up the middle that he had in the playoff game. We had so many opportunities to do better, but so did they.
“Both teams really wanted to win that game tonight.”
Milwaukee had a golden opportunity in the ninth, loading the bases against Wade Davis (4-1) but coming up empty when Santana struck out and Orlando Arcia hit a chopper to the mound.
Milwaukee’s bullpen had been depleted over the two previous nights, leaving Drake (3-5) to work the 10th. Jon Jay opened the inning with a double, and Bryant followed with his 28th homer of the season.
“It was supposed to be down and away,” said Drake, who allowed two runs on three hits and a walk without retiring a batter. “I just left it up middle. That’s what he does with those mistake pitches.”
It was the second straight night of heartbreak for the Brewers, who fell at Pittsburgh on a walk-off homer Wednesday. Milwaukee remains a game behind the Colorado Rockies for the final NL wild-card spot.
NOTES: Chicago had lost three straight to the Brewers before Thursday and was outscored 20-3 in those contests. The Cubs evened the season series at eight games apiece with three to play. ... Chicago is now 5-2 in extra-inning contests this season, including a 2-1 mark against Milwaukee. ... The Brewers are 4-10 this season in extra innings. ... Milwaukee outrighted INF Yadiel Rivera to Triple-A Colorado Springs. He had been designated for assignment last week.