Bullpen breaks down late, Cubs lose 14-4 in Milwaukee
MILWAUKEE -- The Cubs bullpen had been pitching so well for so long. The law of averages suggested the relievers would one day hit a pothole, break an axle, send a couple of tires flying, go careening into a ditch.
The midseason showdown in Milwaukee was competitive until the eighth inning. That's when the Brewers broke open a tie game by scoring 10 runs off Ryan Tepera and Trevor Megill, on the way to a 14-4 victory over the Cubs.
The Cubs now trail Milwaukee by 4 games for first place in the NL Central. The entire lead was built in four days, starting when the Brewers swept Colorado while the Cubs were losing the final three games against the Dodgers.
"I definitely am a guy who tried not to look at that last inning," Cubs manager David Ross said. "That was a really good baseball game and hard-fought baseball game by our team to come back today on a really good pitcher."
Trailing 4-2, the Cubs tied the score on a pinch-hit, 2-run homer by Patrick Wisdom in the seventh inning, his 11th of the season.
The Cubs loaded the bases in the eighth on a double by Eric Sogard and two walks, but pinch-hitter Rafael Ortega grounded to first to end the inning
By the time the bottom of the eighth ended, Sogard was on the pitching mound, getting the final out after the Brewers pounded out 10 runs.
Tepera gave up a pair of walks, followed by an RBI double from Jackie Bradley Jr. to bring in the go-ahead run. There was a sacrifice fly from pinch-hitter Tyrone Taylor, a double by Luis Urias, a 3-run homer by Willy Adames and another homer from Keston Hiura.
Both the home runs came against Megill. But this was a rare fail from Tepera, who recently threw more than 20 consecutive scoreless innings.
"Just looked like he was maybe not quite as sharp, but (still) throwing 94, 95," Ross said. "He's been so good for us. I trust in him even when he doesn't look quite as sharp. I know he's carried a heavy load for us. We've got to take a look at that, making sure he can stay sharp or how much rest he might need."
The Cubs have been getting stuck on 2 runs lately, scoring 2 or less in 11 of 14 games. On Monday, it took two batters to reach the 2-run mark, as Joc Pederson led off the game with a walk and Ian Happ followed with his first home run since June 12.
Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks got a no-decision, ending his streak of winning eight consecutive starts. He had a rough first inning, giving up a 2-run single to Avisail Garcia and leaving the bases loaded.
After the game, Hendricks talked about the rough road the Cubs have faced this month, which included arriving in town around 4 a.m. Monday after a late-night flight from Los Angeles.
"It's such a long season, there's a lot of ups and downs," Hendricks said. "Right now we're just in a really tough stretch in general, just the opponents we're playing, travel we've been having. It's really been a grind, so our guys are really battling our butts off. We've been in most of these games with the exception of just a few here and there."
Anthony Rizzo was not in the lineup due to low-back soreness. He left Sunday's game against the Dodgers in the fourth inning and after Monday's game, Ross said Rizzo was still sore. Willson Contreras, who took a 98 mile per hour fastball to the left hand during the LA series, was given a rest day, with Jose Lobaton starting at catcher.
Before the game, the Cubs sent reliever Tommy Nance down to Iowa, while recalling Trevor Megill. Nance was a sensation when he first joined the Cubs, pitching 11 1/3 scoreless innings to begin his big-league career as a 30-year-old rookie.
Since then, Nance has given up runs in five of his last six appearances. He pitched three innings in Los Angeles on Sunday and allowed 1 run.
"He really put himself on the map when he first showed up and how he performed," Ross said. "You get around, (other teams) are able to watch a little bit of video, they see your strengths and weaknesses, maybe had to make a few adjustments."