A Tip of the Recap – 7/24 (Cubs 6, Brewers 5)

Cubs Record: 59-38

W: Joe Nathan (1-0, 0.00)

L: Will Smith (1-3, 3.86)

S: Hector Rondon (18)

MVP: Anthony Rizzo

When you think of the phrase “stealing a win,” games like Sunday’s are what come to mind.

In the rubber game of their three-game set with the Brewers, the Cubs quickly found themselves in a hole thanks to a long bottom half of the 1st inning.

Jonathan Villar got things started for Milwaukee with a leadoff walk off Chicago starter Jon Lester. He promptly stole second and third and came around to score the first run of the game on a Hernan Perez sacrifice fly. Back-to-back singles by Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy put runners at the corners for Chris Carter, who then lofted a single to left field to make it 2-0. Lester was able to escape without further damage, but not before tossing 40-plus pitches.

The score remained 2-0 until the bottom of the 5th, when Lester started the inning walk-double-walk to load the bases before getting the hook. Justin Grimm came on and recorded a strikeout and was replaced by Clayton Richard. Scooter Gennett immediately hit a chopper over the head of Kris Bryant at third to bring home two runs and make it a 4-0 game.

The Cubs finally got on the board in the top of the 6th. Bryant led off the inning with a single and advanced to second on a Gennett error. Ben Zobrist then came up and hit a single to right to bring home Bryant and trim the lead to 4-1.

Milwaukee threatened in the bottom half of the inning, putting runners at second and third with no outs, but the newly-recalled Joe Nathan was able to right the ship and record three consecutive strikeouts to end the inning.

That escape proved to be crucial, as the Cubs mounted a rally in the top of the 7th.

With one out, Miguel Montero singled to right, Matt Szczur reached on an error and Bryant walked to load the bases for Anthony Rizzo. The Cubs first baseman was just 1 for 11 in the series prior to the at bat, but he made everyone forget about that with a bases-clearing double that gave Chicago a 5-4 lead, its first of the game. Zobrist followed up with a single to center to drive in Rizzo and push the score to 6-4.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit a solo home run with two outs in the 9th to make it 6-5, but Hector Rondon was able to record the final out to preserve the win.

The Good

The last couple of months have been a bit of a struggle at the plate for Zobrist.

After a solid April (.260/.396/.752), Zobrist had a ridiculous May (.406/.483/1.136) that saw him hit six home runs and knock in 25 runs. While it was obvious he could not continue the season at that kind of pace, the drop off since then has been rather sharp.

Zobrist’s June (.221/.339/.707) wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great, either. His July, however, has been rough. Prior to Saturday’s game, Zobrist was just 5 for 53 with six walks in the month. The good news is that much like his performance in May, this poor stretch is not sustainable and Zobrist may be in the process of breaking out of his funk.

On Saturday, Zobrist was 2 for 4 with a run scored and followed that up Sunday by going 2 for 3 with a walk and two RBI. While two games isn’t even long enough to use the usual small sample size qualifier, he has looked better at the dish of late and may be ready to turn things around.

The Bad

It was not a good day on the mound for Lester. It’s just one start, so don’t read too much into it, but his overall line (4 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 7 K) was not pretty.

Following a strong outing against the Mets (7 2/3 IP, 4 H, 1 ER), the veteran lefty looked a lot like he did prior to the All-Star break. He struggled with his control all day and finished without making it out of the 5th inning, the third time that has happened in his last four starts.

The Ugly

The running game was not kind to Chicago on Sunday.

As they did last season, the Brewers ran early and often against Lester. Milwaukee finished the game with six steals (two each by Villar, Braun and Perez) and was caught just once. Conversely, the Cubs were thrown out on all three of their steal attempts.

Coming Attractions

The Cubs will head back to Chicago on Monday, but they will not be going to Wrigley Field. Instead, they will make their way to U.S. Cellular Field to take on the White Sox in the first game of the annual crosstown series. The Cubs will send Jake Arrieta (12-4, 2.60) to the mound, while the White Sox will counter with right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (2-5, 4.41). First pitch is slated for 7:10 p.m. (CST).

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