The Milwaukee Brewers came to Wrigley Field this weekend disguised as a National League contender, brandishing potent bats and executing fundamental baseball.
The Cubs came dressed as themselves.
"You can't really take them as a last-place team," Cubs manager Don Baylor said. "Or as just a struggling team that is 0-9 on the road (entering this series). You always have to be aware of teams like that."
The Brewers got the Cubs' attention again Friday, overcoming a three-run deficit to win, 6-4, on Tyler Houston's three-run homer and Jeffrey Hammonds' two-run blast.
The Cubs' highlight was the arrival of second baseman Bobby Hill from Triple-A Iowa. But he was 0-for-4 with a walk as the Cubs left 15 men on base.
"We're doing what we thought we would be able to do in spring training, and that's hit," Brewers manager Jerry Royster said. "Our big guns are starting to come through. Our 3-4-5 guys are doing some stuff now. This is fun."
Houston, a former Cubs reserve, launched his first home run of the season off starter Matt Clement in the sixth to tie the game 4-4.
"I am glad my first one wasn't one when we were getting blown out or we were blowing somebody out," said Houston, whose last homer came on June 26 at Pittsburgh. "At least this meant something."
Situational hitting has not been a Cubs forte this season. But two-out singles from Roosevelt Brown, Bill Mueller and Augie Ojeda scored the Cubs' first four runs Friday.
The Brewers picked up a run in the fourth inning on Richie Sexson's 10th homer. But Clement mostly cruised through five innings.The Brewers took a 6-4 lead in the seventh on Hammond's two-out homer off reliever Joe Borowsky (1-2). Alex Sanchez had singled and stole second on a pitchout to set up Hammond. Catcher Joe Girardi's throw to second was wide and high.
"I probably could have made a better throw," Girardi said. "I don't know if I make a perfect throw that we still get him. The guy is awful fast. You have to execute perfectly to get him. You don't see most guys who can out-run the baseball. But he out-runs the baseball sometimes and he killed us."
Girardi took little solace in the fact he went 4-for-5 to raise his average to .226.
"It's better to win the game. It doesn't feel as satisfying when you lose. You go home with an empty feeling," he said.
Hammond's game-winner was his third of the year, effectively taking the wind out of the 34,005 fans in attendance.
"That was a fastball in. I didn't miss it," Hammond said. "Sanchez got the inning started with a two-out hit and stole second on a pitchout. As a hitter, I don't care if you are on the bench or you are at the plate, you want to reward him by hitting the ball hard and putting it in play. And it went out."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun