MILWAUKEE (AP) — It had been so long for Marco Estrada that this one felt like his first major league victory.
The right-hander struck out nine in six sparkling innings to win for the first time in almost a year, helping the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Chicago Cubs 5-2 on Tuesday night.
“Definitely, that’s the best he’s thrown all year,” catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. “He controlled his fastball. He controlled his off-speed stuff.”
Estrada (1-5) allowed two hits and walked one in his first win since Aug. 23, 2011, at Pittsburgh. He had made 15 starts and 14 relief appearances since his last victory.
“It feels like it’s my first major league win,” he said. “It feels amazing. I’m extremely happy right now. I’m sure the guys are happy for me.”
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said his players contributed more than they should have to Estrada’s success.
“We didn’t do a real good job of taking advantage of a lot of good pitches to hit,” Sveum said. “A lot of `went down looking’ on some pretty good pitches to hit.”
Estrada yielded Alfonso Soriano’s leadoff double in the second and rookie pitcher Chris Rusin’s first major league hit in the third, a one-out triple. Estrada worked out of the jam when he retired David DeJesus on a comebacker and then struck out Josh Vitters looking to end the inning.
He retired 18 of 21 batters before turning over a 1-0 lead to Kameron Loe to start the seventh.
“Estrada is a nice pitcher, but I wouldn’t expect him to have nine strikeouts in six innings either,” Sveum said.
Estrada said a lot of the credit goes to Lucroy.
“Luc called a great game today,” he said.
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said it was an important victory for Estrada.
“It was good to get him a win,” Roenicke said. “To go through the season and not have one, that’s not what you want to do.”
Loe and Francisco Rodriguez each pitched a scoreless inning before the Cubs made it interesting in the ninth against Manny Parra.
Vitters doubled with one out. After Parra walked Anthony Rizzo, Roenicke brought in Jim Henderson. Soriano then singled in Vitters and Starlin Castro ended Henderson’s appearance when he drove in the second run grounding out to third.
John Axford, who had lost his role as closer earlier in the season, then came in and got Wellington Castillo to ground out to second for his 19th save in 27 chances.
Estrada had been denied a win four times earlier in the season when the bullpen blew a save opportunity.
Roenicke expressed a lot of confidence in Axford and shared that the two had been talking about the closer’s role.
“This is a guy we obviously like to be in that closer role,” Roenicke said.
The Brewers’ victory spoiled the major league debut of Rusin, who had his contract purchased from Triple-A Iowa.
Rusin retired his first nine batters before running into trouble in the fourth.
The left-hander hit leadoff batter Norichika Aoki, who stole second. He walked Ryan Braun with one out before plunking Aramis Ramirez to load the bases. Corey Hart lined a shot off Rusin’s left shin to score Aoki.
Sveum and assistant athletic trainer Ed Halbur came out to check on Rusin (0-1), who stayed in the game. He then got Lucroy to hit into a double play to end the inning.
“That first guy (Rusin) really kind of mystified us a little bit,” Lucroy said. “When you have a really good changeup like that you’re able to keep a lot of guys off balance.”
Rusin, the ninth Cubs rookie pitcher to make his major league debut this season, allowed one run and one hit in five innings. He struck out four and walked two while throwing 76 pitches.
The Brewers scored three runs in the sixth on three walks, a wild pitch and Lucroy’s two-run double off Alberto Cabrera. Carlos Gomez added a run-scoring single in the eighth.
NOTES: SS Jean Segura robbed Rusin of a hit in the fifth. Segura made a lunging dive behind second to catch Rusin’s liner. … Brewers RHP Shaun Marcum made his third rehab start at Class-A Wisconsin on Monday. He allowed a run and four hits in six innings. Barring any problem, he should start either Saturday or Sunday at Pittsburgh. … The Cubs also added left-handed reliever Alex Hinshaw to the 25-man roster after claiming him off waivers Sunday. They optioned LHP Jeff Beliveau and INF Adrian Cardenas to Triple-A Iowa and transferred RHP Matt Garza to 60-day disabled list.