MILWAUKEE — The Brewers mobbed Ryan Braun at home plate after he scored the winning run by beating a desperate throw home from catcher Willson Contreras.
It was a satisfying end to an 11-inning game for Milwaukee against the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs.
Braun scored from third base on a wild pitch by reliever Mike Montgomery with one out, and the Brewers turned crucial double plays in the 10th and 11th innings to beat their NL Central rivals 2-1 on Friday night.
“It was a fun game, for sure,” Milwaukee manage Craig Counsell said. “The bottom line was we pitched really well. We pitched outstanding.”
Jared Hughes (1-0) provided 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, getting two double plays. The one in the 11th was started on a nice stab by first baseman Jesus Aguilar.
Brewers fans cheered loudly, drowning out the sea of blue-clad Cubs fans who made up about two-thirds of the crowd of 28,000-plus at Miller Park.
“Get ahead, get the ball down,” said Hughes about his mindset when he got into the jams. “If I can get the ball down, my sinker will put the ball in the ground, so get ahead and get the ball in the ground.”
The Cubs had a more pressing concern in the clubhouse. Second baseman Javier Baez left the game in the sixth with a left eye contusion after colliding with outfielder Jason Heyward for a shallow fly that fell for a hit.
Baez stayed still on the ground for a few seconds face down before raising his head and giving a thumb-up sign.
“It looked like it was going to start swelling. He said he was all right, but I didn’t feel good about it,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He insisted he was good, but I wasn’t convinced. I’m certain he’ll be fine by tomorrow.”
Baez walked back to the dugout sporting a welt around his left eye. The Cubs said Baez was not in the concussion protocol.
A YEAR LATER
The play happened on the anniversary of Kyle Schwarber’s major knee injury, when he collided with Dexter Fowler chasing a fly ball in Arizona.
“Stop. I’m just saying,” Heyward said when a reporter brought up the anniversary. “He said he was OK. Hopefully, he’s OK tomorrow.”
IN THE ELEVENTH
The left-handed Montgomery (0-2) was in his third inning of work when he got an 0-2 count on Manny Pina before throwing a changeup that bounced past Contreras, allowing Braun to score the winning run.
Braun led off the inning with a single before moving to third after Jesus Aguilar walked and Jett Bandy was hit by pitch.
“We didn’t have great at-bats, I didn’t think. But that inning guys just kept the at-bat alive,” Counsell said.
NL MVP Kris Bryant ended a season-opening 0-for-14 slump by just beating out an infield single that bounced off third base in the fifth. … Ben Zobrist’s solo shot in the second gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead that stood until the sixth, when Aguilar had an RBI single.
Cubs: Left-hander Brett Anderson had an effective debut for Chicago, allowing five hits and a run along with four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. Anderson came to the Cubs in the offseason following an injury-filled 2016 campaign with the Dodgers.
Brewers: Jimmy Nelson struck out eight and allowed a run on four hits over six effective innings. He’s trying to bounce back from an 8-16 season last year.
Brewers: OF Keon Broxton was eager to return to the batter’s box a day after getting hit in the helmet by a 92 mph fastball. Broxton wasn’t in the starting lineup but entered the game as a defensive replacement. He struck out in his only at-bat. “I’m not scared to go back in there. I don’t care. It was just an accident. I’m ready, man,” he said.
Cubs: RHP Kyle Hendricks, who led the majors with a 2.13 ERA in 2016, makes his season debut. Hendricks is 5-1 with a 1.82 ERA in five career starts at Miller Park.
Brewers: LHP Tommy Milone (0-0) joins the rotation in place of opening day starter Junior Guerra, who will be out about six weeks with a strained right calf. Milone made his Brewers debut on Monday when he replaced Guerra on the mound.