Brewers sweep Chicago Cubs, pull within 2 games
Through good times and bad -- his own and the Chicago Cubs' -- Jason Heyward always has been a go-to guy in the clubhouse.
True to form, Heyward was at his locker Sunday to try to explain a three-game sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Brewers.
A tiebreaking, 2-run homer from Travis Shaw in the sixth inning lifted the Brewers to a 3-1 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
The Brewers (75-68) pulled within 2 games of the first-place Cubs (77-66) in the National League Central. The St. Louis Cardinals also are 2 back after defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Cubs had a 5-game lead entering Friday with a chance to put some distance between themselves and the Brewers. Now, it appears the Central will be a three-team race going all the way to the wire.
In the three games at Wrigley, the Brewers outscored the Cubs 20-3. That came on the heels of the Brewers being swept in three by the last-place Reds in Cincinnati.
"What's happened?" Heyward asked, repeating a question to him. "Nothing happened. Baseball happened. OK, if you go over there and ask their clubhouse what happened to them when they got swept by Cincinnati, it's the way the game goes. You go to every team, any situation, any time, if you don't win a game or win a series, it's baseball.
"Not saying, 'OK, so what?' But that's just a part of the game. Teams are going to pitch well sometimes. Sometimes you're not going to hit well. Sometimes the ball's going to go at people. Sometimes it's going to be what it is. It's a series."
But it has been happening a lot to the Cubs lately, and it should be worrisome.
Beginning with a 3-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Sept. 3, the Cubs have been outscored 43-16 by their opponents, and that includes an 8-2 Cubs victory in Pittsburgh.
"They got us," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Zero runs and 1 run in two of the three games. In one game (Saturday's 15-2 loss), we had no chance, but we definitely had chances in the others. We pitched really well. You have to pitch better than good pitching to win, and they did it."
The Cubs outhit the Brewers 8-7 Sunday, but they struck out 11 times and walked just once, going 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. That wasted a decent pitching performance from Kyle Hendricks (6-5), who worked 6 innings of 4-hit ball.
"It happens, it just happens," said Maddon, who is searching for answers like everybody else. "If you look around baseball, it happens to every team at some point. It's contagious to hit as well as it's contagious to not hit. You've just got to keep working your way through it.
"It's going to come back to us. We're going to start hitting again."
For his part, Hendricks said there is no feeling of shock in the clubhouse.
"Not really shock; obviously not what we wanted," he said. "But those are the outcomes. We just have to deal with it and move forward."
And for their part, the Brewers are enjoying this. They feel they've been victimized by Cubs schedule jury-rigging twice this season, and they're 4-0 in their last four games at Wrigley.
"Every game's huge," manager Craig Counsell said. "Wins are critical for us. There is another race (the wild card) we're chasing, too.
"But just to finish this series, to me … I think it was last year, we came here and got swept pretty handily. A short time later to come back and be able to do this against the World Series champs, to me, is a really good sign."