Hamels sharp in return, Almora and Cubs beat Brewers 4-1

CHICAGO (AP) — Back from a five-week stay on the injured list, Cole Hamels looked as sharp as ever.

Hamels pitched five shutout innings, Albert Almora Jr. hit a tiebreaking home run and the Chicago Cubs beat the Milwaukee Brewers 4-1 on Saturday.

Out since June 28 because of a strained left oblique, the 35-year-old Hamels allowed four singles, walked none and struck out six. He left with 1-0 lead before the Brewers tied it on Ryan Braun’s RBI single in the sixth.

“Outstanding,” manager Joe Maddon said. “That was very impressive for his first time back. He’s very athletic. When you watch him pitching, you wouldn’t know that he’s been pitching this long.”

Hamels was limited to 74 pitches in this one, but the four-time All-Star continued a dominant run that started before he was hurt.

In five starts prior to the injury, the lefty pitched at least seven innings and was 2-1 with a 1.00 ERA.

“(I was) just going out there and just trying to execute pitches,” Hamels said. “I knew I was on a pitch count, so I had to make them count.”

“Obviously when you’re able to do that, you’re just trying to not overdo it,” he said.

The Cubs lost All-Star catcher Willson Contreras with a right hamstring injury. He’ll undergo an MRI on Monday to determine severity of the setback.

Almora hit a solo homer in the seventh off reliever Junior Guerra (3-3) into the Wrigley Field basket just inside the left-field foul pole for a 2-1 lead. He came to the plate after Contreras pulled up and grabbed the back of his right leg as he exited the batter’s box after hitting a drive to left-center that was caught.

“You never want to see your All-Star catcher go down like that,” Almora said. “But right after that I had to lock in. So obviously I was trying to get a good pitch to hit.”

Almora added a sacrifice fly in a two-run eighth that included an RBI single by Javier Báez. In the second, Báez tripled and scored.

Rowan Wick (1-0) pitched a scoreless seventh for his first major league victory. Closer Craig Kimbrel got his ninth save in 11 chances.

The Brewers have lost three in a row and five of six.

Milwaukee starter Gio Gonzalez allowed one run on six hits before leaving with one out in the fifth. The left-hander exited his previous start, on July 26 against the Cubs, after 6 1/3 innings with shoulder tightness.

“I wanted to keep pitching,” Gonzalez said. “It’s unfortunate but in this situation, you just can’t push it for right now. I wish I could’ve gone deeper in the game, probably save an arm or two.”

The Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the second when Báez tripled to the right-field corner, then scored with a head-first dive on Gonzalez’s wild pitch with Almora at the plate.

Braun tied it at 1 in the sixth on a single up the middle off David Phelps on an 0-2 pitch with two outs. Phelps made his second appearance with the Cubs after being acquired from Toronto last Tuesday.

MINOR MOVE

Before the game the Brewers recalled RHP Aaron Wilkerson from Triple-A San Antonio for his fourth stint in Milwaukee this season and optioned RHP Jay Jackson to the farm club. Wilkerson is 0-0 with a 6.97 ERA in five games with the Brewers in 2019, but 7-1 with 3.06 ERA in 14 starts in the minors.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cubs: With Hamels activated off the IL, the Cubs designated RHP Brad Brach for assignment. The 33-year-old was 4-3 with a 6.13 ERA in 42 relief appearances. … Contreras was replaced by Victor Caratini after exiting. Caratini will be behind the plate on Sunday.

UP NEXT

Brewers RHP Adrian Houser (4-4, 3.99) gets another spot start on Sunday and faces Cubs RHP Yu Darvish (3-5, 4.46). Houser is 0-4 with a 6.75 ERA in seven starts, but is 4-0 with a 1.47 in 17 relief appearances. Darvish is 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA over his last four outings.