By Curt Hogg
They say baseball is still a kid’s game, even at the Major League level. After Friday night’s events, Ryan Braun would concurrently agree.
Trailing 2-1 in the 5th, Braun doubled off the right field wall on a ball that, at first, appeared to be a three-run home run. Instead, he hustled into second base, and ended up scoring on Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney’s errant throw that went into the crowd at Miller Park.
“I don’t know if it was a home run or not. I think it ended up being a Little League home run, but either way, same result for us,” Braun said. “We scored three runs, so it worked out well.”
The play was much like one you would witness at your 10 year-old’s first game of the season–a well-struck ball by a star player followed by errors that lead to a skewed inside the park home run.
Barney’s two mistakes in the inning may have cost the Cubs the game.
After a single by Corey Hart to open up the 5th inning, Barney missed the tag of first base on a Nyjer Morgan sac bunt attempt, allowing Tony Plush to reach base as the go-ahead run. Then came the Braun double and two-base error that allowed Morgan and Braun to score, giving the Milwaukee a 4-2 lead.
The Brewers are now 48-16 at Miller Park, improving on their MLB-best home record, and remain 9 1/2 games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals atop the NL Central. With wins by both the Brewers and Cardinals, the Magic Number drops to 21.
Starlin Castro hit the first lead-off home run of his career off Randy Wolf to open up the scoring and Jeff Baker’s RBI double in the third extended Chicago’s lead to 2-0, but that was all they would get off Wolf (11-8), who won his fifth straight game.
Wolf exited the game with two out and a man on second with a 4-2 lead. Takashi Saito struck out Castro to end the threat, and Prince Fielder added an insurance run with his 101st RBI on the season. Francisco Rodriguez pitched a perfect eighth with a strikeout, and John Axford held on to pick up his 35th consecutive save, 38th overall.
Cubs starter Rodrigo Lopez gave up four runs in six innings, all on two swings. George Kottaras’s solo home run into the Cubs bullpen got the Brewers on the board in the 4th before Braun’s big hit.
Chicago had a chance to tie the game late with Blake Dewitt facing Axford representing the tying run. After a prolonged at bat, DeWitt grounded out sharply to Fielder to end the game at almost the exact same moment that the Packers game ended on a Mason Crosby field goal.
By Curt Hogg
Randy Wolf didn’t nearly have his best stuff of the season, but the defense behind him sure did.
Milwaukee turned four double plays and a triple play, all within the first five innings of the game as Wolf went eight scoreless innings.
With runners on first and second in the second, James Loney hit a tapper that turned into a 6-4-3 double play, but Matt Kemp tried scoring from second. Prince Fielder rifled the ball home to catcher George Kottaras in time for the triple play as Miller Park erupted. The defense wasn’t done there.
In the third, rookie Justin Sellers singled up the middle and catcher Dionner Navarro was waved home. Jerry Hairston Jr. threw a laser to the plate in plenty of time to nab Navarro. Next inning, Hairston bested his previous play by laying out to rob Kemp of a base hit and sprawling to his feet to double off Andre Ethier at first.
The Brewers scored their runs on three solo home runs by Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy, and Corey Hart. Braun’s blast in the fourth was Milwaukee’s first baserunner. Lucroy’s pinch hit home run to left and Hart’s no-doubter to right both came in the eighth inning off Scott Elbert and Mike MacDougal, respectively.
Wolf (10-8) walked five, including the leadoff man four times, but pitched out of trouble each inning. His defense got him through the first five innings before Wolf began striking out batters with runners on. The Brewers starter pitched with runners on in every inning but the eighth.
Dodgers starter Ted Lilly (7-13) appeared to be the better pitcher in person Monday. He only surrendered two hits, both to Braun, and made one crucial mistake that cost him a loss. The lone run given up came on an 0-2 hanging breaking ball.