Brewers keep slumping as Cubs take series at Miller Park

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers have struggled to find offensive rhythm and that was the case again Sunday afternoon in a 4-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs at Miller Park.

The Brewers were baffled by John Lackey, who allowed five hits over six innings, while fanning seven. He earned his eighth win of the year while Milwaukee’s Zach Davies took his fifth loss, despite a respectable box score of seven innings, three earned runs, and six strikeouts.

“Offensively, we just haven’t been very good,” Brewers third baseman Travis Shaw said. “Our pitching staff did their job this series. I thought the bullpen did a really good job and Davies, another great quality start for us today. It’s just offensively, we did not come up with the clutch hit. There’s ruts like that throughout the season. Obviously, we were really good in the first half offensively. We just have to find a way to get going.”

Chicago didn’t have any trouble getting offense from unexpected places. Fill-in first baseman Victor Caratini launched a go-ahead solo homer in the seventh inning, which led to a solo blast from Kris Bryant in the following frame. It was the Cubs’ 13th win in 16 outings, also expanding their lead in the National League Central to 2 ½ games over the Brewers.

The Brewers did manage to set a club record in the loss, though one they’ll likely try to forget. Milwaukee has gone hitless with runners in scoring position 31 consecutive times, breaking a record set in 1987 when the Brewers went 0-for-30.

“I don’t think anybody in this clubhouse is too worried about this one series,” Davies said. “Yeah, it would have been nice to switch up the standings again, but there’s still 55 games or so left to play and we’re going to go out and compete in every one of them.”

Milwaukee welcomes St. Louis on Tuesday night where the Cardinals look to secure their 14th straight series in Milwaukee.

Cubs outlast Brewers to win in 11th inning

MILWAUKEE — Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward will get credit for the 2-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, but the 11-inning loss was set up by some early control issues.

Junior Guerra was pulled after three innings due to a slow start that saw the Opening Day starter walk four Chicago batters. His replacement, Josh Hader, fared much better, throwing three innings with six strikeouts and just a single walk issues. Hader showed his versatility after getting work out of the bullpen in Friday night’s win.

A factor leading to Milwaukee’s loss in Saturday’s rematch can be summed up by their record with runners in scoring position over the first two games of the series: 0-for-16.

“I don’t think we created enough opportunities to score tonight,” said Brewers manager Craig Counsell. “Expecting two-out hits every night to score runs, we have to do a little better than that.”

Milwaukee’s only offense came in the form of a first-inning RBI double from Ryan Braun. Chicago kept playing to its opportunities, finally breaking through in the seventh inning with a Kris Bryant RBI single that tied the game 1-1.

Then came the mistake that mattered.

Jared Hughes, who came in to pitch the final two innings for Milwaukee, left a slider up in the zone for Heyward, who blasted the ball out of the park with what would prove to be the winning run.

“I wish I could have that one back right there,” said Hughes. “I missed over the plate and Heyward went down and did a good job of hitting it hard. Overall, if we keep pitching like that, I think we’re going to be OK, though.”

Pitching staff leads Crew over Cubs 2-1

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers survived a pitching duel with the Chicago Cubs Friday night thanks to seven scoreless innings from starter Brent Suter, along with backup from the bullpen.

Milwaukee would get the 2-1 victory and pull within a half game of the division-leading Cubs because of the career-high performance from Suter.

“I have to be honest, it feels good,” Suter said. “It was probably one of the biggest starts of my life, and to come through for the team and get the team a win, it feels good.”

The only scoring Chicago could muster came against the Brewers’ newest reliever, Anthony Swarzak, who allowed one run in the eighth inning. He was credited with the hold, while Corey Knebel came in to record his 18th save and preserve the win.

After acquiring him in free agency over pursuing teams like the Brewers, Cubs starter Jose Quintana took his sixth loss of the season after allowing two runs on four hits in six innings of work. He struck out six, but walked three in the effort.

“They work good at-bats,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Milwaukee’s bats. “They don’t expand their strike zone — maybe one or two guys might. They’re not expanders. You’ve got to throw a strike. It’s almost like an [American League] East batting lineup. You have to get them out within the strike zone, and that’s what’s so interesting about their group.”

But it wasn’t all about the pitchers. Milwaukee’s offense was able to come through when it mattered, as Orlando Arcia and Manny Piña each delivered an RBI groundout to aid in the win. Ryan Braun nearly added a home run, had it not been for Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward robbing him of his 13th blast of the year.

Brewers make trade for Swarzak, still involved in Tigers discussions

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers have officially become buyers before the July 31 trade deadline, dealing outfield prospect Ryan Cordell to the Chicago White Sox for right handed pitcher Anthony Swarzak.

Swarzak has a 2.23 ERA this season in 41 appearances, logging his first career save in Monday’s win over the Chicago Cubs. The 31-year-old has a 4.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a career-best 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings. Milwaukee gets a solid reliever in the deal, but Swarzak will no longer be under team control after the 2017 season.

Milwaukee gives up it’s No. 17 prospect for Swarzak, though Cordell didn’t exactly earn glowing reviews from MLB columnist Jeff Passan.

In 68 games in Triple A Colorado Springs this year, 25-year-old Cordell is batting .284 with 10 home runs and 45 RBI.

More trades coming?

MLB insider Jon Morosi reports the Brewers are still in discussions with the Detroit Tigers in regards to a potential trade for Ian Kinsler and/or Justin Wilson.

No word on how serious those talks have become, but Milwaukee and Detroit have been closely linked in trade rumors over the past week. The Brewers and Athletics have also been in reports in recent weeks, as Milwaukee looks for a starting pitcher to add to their rotation. The A’s are looking for center field prospects in exchange for Sonny Gray — a position at which the Brewers are extremely deep.

Cubs make expensive trade to catch Brewers in NL Central

CHICAGO — The defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs have acquired left handed pitcher José Quintana, sending prospects Eloy Jiménez, Dylan Cease, Matt Rose, and Bryant Flete to the Chicago White Sox in exchange.

The Cubs sit 5 ½ games behind the Milwaukee Brewers at the halfway point of the season, sending their top two prospects (Jiménez and Cease) across town in an attempt to take control of the division and retain their crown. The Cubs are also trying to hold off the St. Louis Cardinals (43-45).

Quintana was a controllable arm the Brewers were reportedly targeting in an effort to take advantage of a surprise season during what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. That public interest may have driven Quintana’s price tag upward, a move that ultimately could cost the Cubs down the line.

Milwaukee’s farm system ranks No. 5, according to MLB.com, while Chicago’s (Cubs) did not make the top 10. It would appear as though the Brewers could still go after another established player and maintain success at the minor league level.

Anderson throttled in 13-6 loss to Cubs

CHICAGO — Milwaukee Brewers starter Chase Anderson took his first loss of the year in a 13-6 defeat at the hands of the rival Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Sunday afternoon.

Anderson was knocked around for seven hits, six earned runs, while walking three batters in his four innings of work. His counterpart, Jake Arrieta, had a nicer day on the mound, giving Chicago six innings of one-run ball (unearned) while striking out six.

“We got traffic and just didn’t get the hit to kind of put a lot of stress on [Arrieta] and make him make those big pitches in a game where a one-swing can hurt you,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of Arrieta. “He did a good job working out of the fifth [inning] where we got the first two guys on.”

The Cubs went deep four times against the current National League Central leaders, while Willson Contreras racked up three hits and three RBIs.

“I think we were due as a team offensively,” Kris Bryant said. “We haven’t really been doing much early on here, so I think it was a matter of time for us.”

Ryan Braun returned from the disabled list to go 0-for-5 at the plate for Milwaukee. Eric Thames left in the fifth inning with hamstring tightness — a nagging injury that’s been bothering him for a couple of weeks. After the game, Counsell said they’d have to address their approach to Thames’ hamstring concerns during practice and days off.

Brewers believe Saturday’s “rain-out” was postponed by Cubs for alternative reason

CHICAGO — Roughly three hours before the Brewers and Cubs were supposed to get underway from Wrigley Field, Cubs management decided not to tempt Mother Nature, postponing the contest to July 6.

That sounds harmless enough, considering the Cubs’ weather forecast showed heavy rains and thunderstorms in the area for the 1:20 p.m. start time. But after speaking with reporters prior to Sunday’s series finale, it appears Brewers general manager David Stearns hinted that Chicago may have made the decision for a reason other than weather.

Some Brewers fans surmised that the Cubs feared playing Milwaukee, which has won 10 of its last 12 games. If manager Craig Counsell’s comments are any indication, the fans could be right.

While the Cubs’ weather report showed severe weather, by the time the game started, things had cleared up and the game could have been played. The make-up date has been set for July 6 at 1:20 p.m.

Brewers and Cubs postponed due to rain

CHICAGO — Rain caused a two-hour delay in game one of the Brewers and Cubs series, but Saturday’s game will be postponed to a later date due to rainy conditions at Wrigley Field.

The series is scheduled to resume Sunday at 1:20 p.m. but Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell is unsure if outfielder Ryan Braun will be able to come off the disabled list because inclement weather has affected his ability to work outside.

The make-up game has been scheduled for 1:20 p.m. on Thursday, July 6th. Both teams had that date open.

Cutler: If Packers called, “I’d have to pass on that”

CHICAGO — Jay Cutler recently announced his retirement from professional football, but told Fox Sports One on Monday that he’d choose retirement over the opportunity to play for the Green Bay Packers if they ever needed his services.

Doug Gottlieb filled in as host of “The Herd With Colin Cowherd” and posed a scenario: Would Cutler sign with his former rival if Aaron Rodgers were ever hurt?

“Everyone loves hypotheticals,” Cutler began. “…Honestly, if the Green Bay Packers call, I’m probably not going to do it. I don’t think they would ever call me, but I’d probably have to pass on that.”

Cutler played in only five games in 2016, throwing four touchdowns and five interceptions before being replaced by Mike Glennon. Cutler ends his career in Chicago with at least 14 franchise records, including passing yards (23,443) and passing touchdowns (154).

Cubs ride early lead to 7-4 victory over Brewers

MILWAUKEE — Another rough start for Zach Davies led to his second loss of the season, as the Milwaukee Brewers fell to the Chicago Cubs 7-4 at Miller Park Sunday afternoon.

Davies allowed a double to Addison Russell, a triple to Jason Heyward, and a home run to Kyle Schwarber to put the Brewers in a 5-0 hole entering the bottom of the second inning. While he finished out the remainder of his five innings allowing just one more hit throughout the day, the Milwaukee offense couldn’t pick up the slack.

Ryan Braun did his best, driving in three on a home run to center field in the third inning to cut the deficit to two. Chicago would open it back up by adding a pair of runs in the seventh inning, which was set up by a throwing error that allowed a base-runner to advance to second.

Jake Arrieta excelled on the mound for Chicago, racking up 10 strikeouts in a seven-inning performance.

After losing their first series against the Cubs, the Brewers will get another shot on the road when they meet Chicago again Apr. 17-19. Milwaukee’s next nine games are on the road and won’t return to Miller Park until Apr. 20.