It did not take long for Milwaukee’s John Axford to vent his anger at former teammate Carlos Villanueva. Unfortunately for the Cubs pitcher, the Brewers had the last laugh. Villanueva singled off Axford, one of four consecutive RBI hits by the Cubs in the fifth, but the Brewers rallied with four runs in the seventh to post a 6-5 win Tuesday in Game 1 of a day-night doubleheader. Jean Segura hit a solo home run and a tie-breaking RBI double, and Khris Davis belted a game-tying three-run homer for the win.
“It’s heart breaking, it’s a heart breaking loss today,” Villanueva said of the defeat, which dropped the Cubs’ record to 15-22 in one-run games, and 15-30 against the National League Central.
“To say it’s frustrating — it’s baseball,” Villanueva said. “We all go out there and try to do our jobs and sometimes it doesn’t happen the way we want it to. When it happens more than once, more than twice — obviously, it’s difficult the day of. Maybe in five days, we’ll have a little better luck.”
In the first four innings, the Cubs couldn’t deliver a run-scoring hit, stranding seven baserunners and going 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. They loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth against Yovani Gallardo, but he had to leave with a 1-2 count against Darwin Barney because of tightness in his left hamstring.
Barney greeted Axford with a two-run single to center to tie the game. Castillo, Villanueva and David DeJesus each followed with RBI singles to open a 5-2 lead. Villanueva’s hit resulted in the 24th RBI by a Cubs pitcher, the most in the National League, and that’s what prompted the angry message from Axford.
“I have no idea how I hit that ball,” Villanueva said. “He threw me the first fastball, and I saw 98 [mph] out there. I swung at the second one, and I didn’t even see it. I got a little short [on my grip].
“I already got a text from Axford — he yelled at me and called me a jerk,” Villanueva said of the good-natured message. “I deserve it. I’d probably do the same thing if it was the other way around. It was a fun inning. I wish we could’ve made it stand.”
But they couldn’t. Villanueva exited with one out in the seventh and two runners on. Davis launched the first pitch from James Russell into the right-field bleachers to tie the game at 5. Why Russell vs. Davis? For one, the Cubs’ bullpen was a little short-handed at the back end. The Brewers slugger was batting .214 against lefties, and in the Minor Leagues, had hit 11 of his 13 home runs off right-handers.
“We had the bullpen set up the way we wanted it today with some guys down, and obviously just couldn’t get it done,” said Sveum, who was a little short-handed at the back end of the ‘pen.
Said Milwaukee’s Ron Roenicke: “You’re in a situation in a doubleheader that you do things you’re not usually accustomed to doing. So Dale, when he brings in his left hander, there’s a good reason for doing what he did. I don’t know what it is, but [Russell] is a guy he obviously trusts and likes.”
Segura added a RBI double off Russell, who had not given up a run over his last 12 appearances. It was the 21st blown save by the Cubs’ bullpen, most in the NL.
— Carrie Muskat