After early runs, Brewers bats fall silent
Two tallies are all Milwaukee can manage vs. Chicago
MILWAUKEE -- This time, there was no Mother's Day miracle at Miller Park.
Swinging pink bats as part of Major League Baseball's breast cancer awareness campaign, Rickie Weeks hit his 12th career leadoff home run and Jason Kendall hit an RBI triple in the second inning, but the Cubs answered with four runs in the third for a 4-2 win on Sunday that averted a Brewers sweep.
It was a day of shortcomings for Brewers hitters swinging bats of all colors. They stranded 10 runners on base in the game, including seven on second or third base, and finished 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Their best chance to break through might have come in the eighth inning, when Ryan Braun reached third with nobody out and the Brewers loaded the bases with one out, only to come up empty.
It was a rare day of failure for a club with a history of making Mom proud. The Brewers had won two of three Mother's Day games since the pink bats were introduced in 2006, with Bill Hall hitting a game-winning home run to beat the Mets in 2006 and Braun belting a pair of homers to beat the Cardinals in 2008.
"You kind of get spoiled," Weeks said. "It was one of those days, I guess. This is one game today that we kind of let go."
Cubs pitchers and defenders, particularly fill-in third baseman Mike Fontenot, had something to do with that. Starter Sean Marshall (1-2) retired the final seven Brewers hitters he faced to cap a five-inning stint, and Fontenot made outstanding defensive plays in the second and eighth innings to rob the Brewers of runs.
In the second inning with Kendall at third and nobody out, Fontenot made a diving stop of Brewers starter Jeff Suppan's grounder down the third-base line. Fontenot nearly tagged out Kendall, but settled for the out at first. Weeks followed with a walk, but Marshall retired Corey Hart on a weak line drive to shortstop and struck out Braun.
"[Fontenot] played a tremendous third base today," Suppan said. "[He] saved them a lot of runs."
Fontenot might have saved the game for the Cubs in the eighth. With the bases loaded and two outs, Kendall worked a seven-pitch at-bat against reliever Carlos Marmol before hitting a grounder toward the hole between shortstop and third base. Fontenot gobbled it up and threw to second base for the inning-ending forceout.
"Off the bat, I thought it was through," Kendall said. "[Fontenot] made some nice plays over there. I thought I got enough of it."
The eighth was particularly painful for Milwaukee. Marshall and reliever Angel Guzman had retired 13 hitters in a row before Braun led off against Marmol with a double and advanced to third on a balk. First baseman Prince Fielder struck out on three pitches, but Mike Cameron worked a walk and then advanced to second base on a wild pitch to leave runners at second and third base for J.J. Hardy, who made a huge out by popping up to the second baseman. Hall was set up for a repeat of his 2006 Mother's Day game-winner, but instead he walked to load the bases for Kendall.
Manager Ken Macha had left-handed hitter Craig Counsell on-deck and ready to pinch-hit, but he stuck with his starting catcher.
"Three hits last night, and he had a triple today," Macha said, referring to Kendall. "He's been swinging the bat well of late. ... In a one- or two-run game, you can look at a whole bunch of things that happened. There are a whole bunch of things you can pick apart in this game. That's why they play baseball, because it's interesting to pick it apart afterwards."
Weeks walked with one out in the ninth inning, but Cubs closer Kevin Gregg struck out Hart and Braun for his sixth save.
"They kind of locked us in a little bit," Weeks said of Marshall and the relievers who followed. "We had good at-bats, but when we needed the right pitch here or the right pitch there, we couldn't get it done."
Suppan (2-3), making his second straight Mother's Day start since his own mom succumbed to pancreatic cancer, was charged with four runs, three of them earned, on five hits in five innings. He lost for the first time since April 12, when he surrendered five runs in 3 2/3 innings against Chicago.
All four runs against him on Sunday were scored in the top of the third, when Alfonso Soriano tied the game with a two-run home run, Milton Bradley put the Cubs on top with an RBI single and an insurance run scored on an error charged to Kendall.
Kendall's errant throw came after Suppan's wild pitch bounced toward the Brewers dugout. Kendall gave chase and under-handed the baseball to the plate, but Suppan, covering, didn't see it coming. The miscue allowed Kosuke Fukudome to advance from third base for a 4-2 Cubs lead that would stand up.
"I just kept battling in that inning," Suppan said. "Soriano is always a home run threat, and he was a tough hitter for me today. I threw a lot of pitches to him. That was a little frustrating."
It has nonetheless been a successful three weeks for the Brewers, who played 20 games in 20 days ahead of Monday's well-deserved break and went 14-6 in that span. Weeks and Co. were looking forward to sleeping in.
"We have a day off," Weeks said. "That's the good thing, I guess."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.