Brewers secure series win over Cubs
Counsell, Braun go back-to-back in decisive seventh
MILWAUKEE -- The game that wouldn't seem to end ended well for the Brewers on Saturday.
They combined with the Cubs for 13 runs, 13 hits, nine walks and one power outage over the final 2 1/2 innings of Milwaukee's weird, 12-6 win at sold-out Miller Park. The nine-inning affair spanned three hours and 47 minutes, and that didn't include the 20-minute delay in the top of the eighth inning when most of the ballpark's lights went dark.
What was more strange? The power outage, or the power display? A half inning before the delay, Brewers slugger Ryan Braun and no-so-slugger Craig Counsell combined for the unlikeliest of back-to-back home runs.
Counsell hit the first of those homers, his first of the season and the 36th of a career that spans 4,029 at-bats and 1,308 games. Braun, who was hit in the helmet during his previous at-bat, followed with a solo shot, and the Brewers went on to score six runs in the inning. They tacked on three more in the eighth to hold off a Cubs rally and improved to 14-4 since April 21, the best record in the Majors over that span. Saturday's win ensured the Brewers their seventh consecutive series win or split.
It didn't exactly follow the script.
"You saw a whole bunch of a lotta stuff," Brewers manager Ken Macha said, a fitting quote for a strange night.
"I took two Advil before I came in," Macha told reporters after sitting down in front of a microphone. "I'm serious about the Advil. I don't know how many Lou [Piniella, Chicago's manager] took, but I took two."
Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo (4-1) won his third consecutive decision, even though his five-inning start ended hours before the game did. He struggled to command his curveball, a problem compounded by plate umpire Jerry Crawford's postage stamp-sized strike zone, but nearly got through the fifth inning without allowing a run.
The Cubs' fill-in first baseman Micah Hoffpauir ended that bid when he hit a misplaced Gallardo fastball for a two-out, two-run home run in the top of the fifth inning that cut Milwaukee's lead to 3-2. It was still 3-2 entering the seventh, when a tight game went wild.
"It was a long game, I'll tell you that, but we came out on top, so it was worth it," Gallardo said.
The game might have been saved in the top of the seventh, when the Cubs loaded the bases with two walks and a single against Seth McClung, who had pitched a scoreless sixth. Left-hander Mitch Stetter entered the game to strike out Hoffpauir, then was replaced by righty Carlos Villanueva, who retired Geovany Soto on a fielder's-choice groundout.
In the next half-inning, the Brewers sent 11 men to the plate in busting loose for six runs against three Cubs pitchers, including starter Ryan Dempster (2-2), who was charged with five runs, four of them earned, in 6 1/3 innings of a losing effort.
"I was just trying to get an out," said Villanueva. "Then our offense came back and did a great job."
Said Macha, "That was a turning point right there. ... I'm sure the bullpen would have been used differently by the Cubs had we not gotten through that inning. Those two outs were the key outs."
Counsell sparked things when he pulled a Dempster pitch down the right-field line for a home run and a 4-2 lead. Braun, who showed bunt against Dempster back in the fifth inning before a fastball grazed his helmet, connected four pitches later for another home run, Braun's team-best eighth this season, and a 5-2 lead.
Braun stared long and hard at Dempster before beginning his trot around the bases. His thoughts would have to remain private, though; the usually media-friendly Braun didn't appear in the clubhouse after the game, and he sent a club spokesperson to say he wasn't interested in talking.
"The ball jumps off [Braun's] bat," said catcher Jason Kendall, who set a season high with three hits and was one of three Brewers to drive in two runs. "You know he's going to do that for a long time."
Kendall might have been more excited about Counsell's homer.
"If there was anyone more excited than him, it was me," Kendall said. "You have to get that first one out of the way. We count our [batting practice] shots, our warning-track shots, everything. You have these other guys hitting 20, 30 home runs, me and Counsell are counting out BP home runs, and those aren't coming, either."
Corey Hart, Kendall and Rickie Weeks hit RBI singles off reliever David Patton, and Kendall scored on Patton's wild pitch as the long rally continued, but the Cubs weren't finished yet. They entered the eighth inning in a 9-2 hole, but scored three runs off Jorge Julio to make it 9-5, prompting a call for Todd Coffey with a runner at second base.
That's when the lights went out, first in left field and then in right. Brewers players were called off the field, and the game was delayed 20 minutes while power was restored.
Coffey returned to the mound and surrendered a first-pitch RBI double to Milton Bradley that made it 9-6 before recording the final out of the inning. The game was delayed again during the bottom of the eighth when Cubs pitcher Chad Fox, a former Brewer, suffered an injury on a pitch to Prince Fielder. The Brewers scored three more insurance runs against his replacement, Aaron Heilman.
Milwaukee will go for a three-game sweep on Sunday afternoon.
"That was definitely 'out there' a little bit -- especially the lights," Kendall said. "But that's our job, to go out and do what you can do. It was a good win, but this one's over."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.