Last strikes: Cubs 5, Brewers 2

MILWAUKEE – Seventeen last strikes for the 17 batters faced by Brewers’ relievers in Milwaukee’s 5-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Saturday evening.

1. The Milwaukee Brewers entered the ninth inning of Saturday’s game with the Chicago Cubs holding a 2-1 lead thanks to Lorenzo Cain’s sacrifice fly in the eighth inning. Without closer Corey Knebel available, manager Craig Counsell turned to Jacob Barnes to record the final three outs of the game for the Brewers.

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2. From that point on, things could not have gone much worse for Milwaukee.

3. While Barnes is handed the loss in relief, placing the blame solely on him would be foolish. Barnes didn’t pitch poorly, but rather the defense failed him.

4. The Brewers potentially had an opportunity to end the game when Cubs infielder Javy Baez stepped to the plate. There were runners on first and second with one out when Baez hit a two-hopper to third baseman Travis Shaw. Shaw was unable to field the ball – which possibly could have resulted in a game-ending double play – leaving the bases loaded with one out.

5. “It was a tough hop, there’s no question it was an in-between hop,” Counsell said of the ball Shaw mis-handled. “Doubtful that we would’ve turned two. I was just thinking [one] out when he hit it.”

6. Utility man Ben Zobrist then stepped to the dish and knocked a grounder in the vicinity of first baseman Eric Thames. Thames made a terrific diving stop to get the ball but was hesitant in his decision making on the play. He eventually flipped the ball to first base with Barnes covering, but Barnes was late getting to the bag and entirely missed it, resulting in a game-tying infield single for Zobrist.

7. “It’s part of the game, unfortunately,” Barnes said of the ninth inning collapse. “You execute pitches and unfortunately sometimes it kind of goes in the wrong spot. That’s all you can do. I look back on it and obviously it’s frustrating and no one wants to ever give up runs but I think I executed pretty well for the most part and unfortunately, they were able to find some holes and get some infield hits.”

8. Those back-to-back plays cost the Brewers an early season win. Chicago’s Ian Happ promptly stepped to the plate and laced a two-run single into left center and moved up to second base on Cain’s throw into third base. After an intentional walk to Kris Bryant, Chicago’s Jon Lester pinch hit for pitcher Pedro Strop and dropped down a squeeze bunt scoring Zobrist from third.

9. “[Barnes] pitched great. He broke probably three bats that inning,” Counsell said. “In the end we had a play to make on one of those and we just couldn’t make a play. I’m not sure on the first ball there’s an out to be had. Zobrist’s ball, I think there’s an out in there somewhere and certainly on Baez’s ball there’s an out.

10. “We’ve made too many infield mistakes, there’s no question,” Counsell said. “I think they are a good defensive infield, we’ve made defensive mistakes the past couple days.”

11. Whether or not the Brewers will be considered a good defensive infield – or team — at the end of the year is obviously yet to be known. What is factual is the fact that Milwaukee has committed 11 errors through six games on this home stand.

12. That doesn’t include plays like the one Thames and Barnes failed to execute at first base in the ninth and the ball Cain struggled to find in the sun on Bryant’s triple in the eighth. They can certainly be a good defensive team when it is all said and done, but they have not been one thus far.

13. All Milwaukee could muster in the bottom of the ninth was a single from Shaw before this one officially became a loss, and a wasted pitching performance from starter Zach Davies.

14. Davies was tremendous on the day, as was his counterpart, Yu Darvish of the Cubs. Davies struck out eight over six innings allowing one earned run on the day. Darvish went six innings as well, allowing two hits and one earned run while striking out nine.

15. The only damage done to the starting pitchers came by virtue of solo home runs. Thames launched a ball to the second deck in left field to open the scoring in the fourth for the Brewers. Bryant went deep off Davies in the sixth, a 407-foot blast into the seats in left field.

16. It’s far too early to panic, or even fret about this loss for Brewers fans. Teams lose games, it happens to all 30 franchises in baseball. But it’s the way the game was lost that makes this one a frustrating loss. It’s also a game that could potentially be looked back at near the end of the season as one that could have helped the Brewers in the playoff race.

17. The Brewers and Cubs finish off the four-game set on Sunday afternoon at 1:10PM CT at Miller Park. Chase Anderson will start for the Brewers and José Quintana will take the mound for the Cubs.

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