MILWAUKEE — A suicide squeeze with the bases loaded was the last thing the Chicago Cubs were expecting with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game, or it at least appeared that way.
Called upon to pinch hit, Logan Schafer managed to get the bunt down despite the pitch being high and outside. Cubs reliever Justin Grimm seemed completely flummoxed by what to do with the baseball and pinch runner Jeff Bianchi scored easily to give Milwaukee a 4-3 victory.
“I saw how Justin Grimm kind of caught it (and said) ‘Now what do I do?’ ” Schafer said. “Then he kind of hesitated and threw it to first. (A squeeze there) is pretty surprising. With the bases loaded and one out you aren’t really thinking suicide squeeze. I pride myself on all facets of the game, especially bunting. I knew I had that ability and the coaching staff had that call. It worked out well.”
The potential for a squeeze grew when Brewers manager Ron Roenicke opted to hit Schafer for the right-handed Sean Halton. Instead of giving the squeeze sign right away, Roenicke opted to let Schafer take a couple of hacks at driving in the run with a base hit or a sacrifice fly.
Once Schafer got the squeeze sign, he knew he had to do whatever it took to get it down, including lunging out to bunt a pitch well outside the strike zone.
“It felt good that I was able to get a bad pitch down,” Schafer said. “I was expecting something closer to the plate, but you have to make sacrifices so I kind of jumped across the plate to do whatever I could to get it down.”
Aramis Ramirez started the inning with a walk and was pinch run for by Bianchi. Toying with whether to hit and run, bunt or steal, Roenicke let Carlos Gomez swing away and he singled to center.
Defensive struggles continued to bite the Cubs when Grimm misplayed Scooter Gennett’s sacrifice attempt allowing the Brewers to load the bases with nobody out. Grimm followed by getting Caleb Gindl to pop a 2-0 pitch up to Starlin Castro at shortstop, but was then caught off guard by the squeeze.
Grimm picked up the bunt, appeared confused and then threw the ball to first base to get Schafer out at first base. While it didn’t matter, Grimm was actually credited with recording the out after the winning run had scored.
“Bases loaded, its not ideal,” Roenicke said. “I have to think about it when we have the bases loaded because it’s a flip and a force play at home. It’s so much easier than having to tag at home so most guys won’t do it there. I really thought Caleb was going to come through with a long fly ball but I had the perfect situation and the count, 1-1, was a tough count to pitch out in so I liked the matchup there.”
Pinch hitting Schafer may have signaled to some the squeeze was coming, but not to the Cubs. With Gennett and Gindl due up, Cubs manager Dale Sveum could have turned to one of the three left-handers in his bullpen and made Roenicke change his plans.
Khris Davis would have likely hit for Gindl, while Halton would have hit for himself. In a close game, the Brewers got the match-ups they wanted and executed.
“I’m never surprised by the suicide squeeze,” Schafer said. “I had it on my mind going up there, but I was ready to hit too. I was pretty confident I was going to get the job done either way.”
The win pushed Milwaukee’s season record to 12-5 against the Cubs, its best record against any opponent this season. The Brewers are now 4 1/2 games up on the Cubs in their attempt to finish out of last place.
Despite only fighting to stay out of the cellar, the Brewers have rallied late for walk-off wins in two of their last three games.
“Having a little juice and a little energy right now, we’ve taken a couple of walk-off wins here,” Schafer said. “That always adds to the energy in here and we feed off it. We’ve obviously been playing better baseball lately. It helps you in your energy to play for each other and do really well. It’s been fun lately.”