CHICAGO — The Milwaukee Brewers have found a left-handed complement for Ryan Bryan in the batting order, and everything is right in their world at the moment.
Early season sensation Eric Thames homered in his club record-tying fifth straight game and the streaking Brewers turned back the Chicago Cubs 6-3 on Monday night. The victory was their sixth in the last seven games.
Milwaukee never trailed after Thames hit an opposite-field homer to snap a 3-3 tie in the third inning. Jeromy Burnitz became the first and last Brewers player to homer in five straight games in August, 1997.
“You’ve just got to ride the wave and enjoy it,” said Thames, 30, who played in Korea last three years. “There’s always dark times around the corner, so you’ve just got to take it in stride.”
Braun and Jeff Bandy also went deep for Milwaukee, the only team to hit as many as three homers in a game off Chicago starter John Lackey (1-2) last season.
“It’s unique that Ryan’s not getting the attention after a five-home run start in the first couple weeks of the season,” manager Craig Counsell said. “But he’s happy with it, I guarantee you.”
The Cubs lost for a fourth straight time, their worst stretch since a five-game skid from July 5-9 last season. At 6-7, the defending World Series champs have lost four consecutive games at Wrigley Field for the first time since May, 2014.
“There’s no panic on our side at all,” Kyle Schwarber said. “We know that we’re a good baseball team and we’ll bounce back. We have to turn the page.”
Brewers starter Chase Anderson (2-0) pitched five innings of three-run, seven-hit ball to pick up the victory. He walked two batters and struck out five. Neftali Felix pitched a scoreless ninth for his fifth save in as many tries.
Milwaukee added pair of insurance runs in the eighth inning on Braun’s RBI double and steal of third base followed by catcher Willson Contreras’ throwing error.
“We did a lot of things well,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We have to take better care of the latter part of the game.”
Chicago trailed 3-1 when Albert Almora Jr. reached Anderson for a two-run double in the third inning. The hit scored Jason Heyward and Miguel Montero, who had led off with singles.
It took the Brewers three batters to break through against Lackey in the first inning.
After Thames extended his hit streak to 10 games with a one-out double, Braun unloaded his seventh homer in the last nine games versus the Cubs. Braun’s 651st extra-base hit moved him into second place with Paul Molitor on the Brewers’ all-time list.
Chicago closed to within 2-1 on Ben Zobrist’s two-out single in the bottom half of the inning.
Bandy quickly restored the two-run lead with a homer to open the second inning.
Brewers: RHP Matt Garza (strained right groin) had his rehab start moved from Triple A Colorado Springs to Class A Wisconsin on Monday due to forecast of rain in Nashville. The hope is that Garza can pitch with no limits before his return to the parent club this weekend. … RHP Junior Guerra (strained right calf) began workouts on a treadmill. Counsell offered no timetable for his return.
LIKE OLD TIMES
Former Cubs Jason Hammel, Jorge Soler and Travis Wood received their 2016 World Series rings in a pre-game ceremony. All play for the Kansas City Royals, who had an open date.
“That (the organization) put in the effort to bring us three back to get our rings here is pretty special,” said Wood, who was granted free agency after five seasons with the team. “Last year was one to remember for sure.”
Chicago RHP Carl Edwards Jr. was activated after bereavement leave and OF Tommy La Stella was placed on the same list. Edwards was available for the opener of the three-game series.
La Stella is 1 for 4 with one double and one RBI in six games this season.
Brewers: RHP Jimmy Nelson (1-0, 1.38) will take a 1-6 career record versus the Cubs into his start on Tuesday.
Cubs: LHP Brett Anderson (1-0, 0.84) will get the call against the Brewers on Tuesday. He has no decisions in two career starts against them.