CHICAGO (AP) — Jeff Bianchi added another souvenir to his trophy case, and this one caught his manager by surprise.
Bianchi hit a three-run shot for his first big league homer, leading the Milwaukee Brewers to a 4-1 win over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night.
Bianchi went deep off Travis Wood (4-11) with two outs in the second for Milwaukee, which has won seven of eight overall and has beaten the Cubs seven straight times.
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The 25-year-old rookie was given the green light on a 3-0 pitch and drilled it into the left field seats.
“I didn’t expect him to swing,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “He had the green light, but I didn’t expect him to swing. I was glad he did — not just because of the outcome, but he’s got the pitcher behind him.”
Bianchi started his big league career 0 for 15 but had hits in four straight plate appearances coming in before homering in his first at-bat against Wood.
“It calmed me down a little bit,” Bianchi said of his first big league hit, which came on Saturday. “I don’t think I was putting too much pressure on myself, because I’ve gone 0 for (15) before in my career.”
Bianchi was with the Cubs for about a month during the offseason after being claimed off waivers from the Kansas City Royals in December. Chicago also waived him in January to free up a roster spot, and he was claimed by the Brewers.
Yovani Gallardo (14-8) won his seventh straight start, holding Chicago to one run and three hits over seven innings and striking out nine. Gallardo has won six straight starts since July 31, pitching seven or more innings in each. He’s held the Cubs to a single run in each of his last four appearances at Wrigley Field.
“I’ve been able to command my curveball. That makes a huge difference,” Gallardo said. “I made some mistakes with the fastball tonight, but being able to throw that curveball for a strike opens a little bit more.”
John Axford finished up for his 21st save in 29 chances.
Wood settled down after Bianchi’s homer and allowed just two baserunners over his final five innings. Wood has allowed three runs or fewer in five of his last six starts — all losses.
Wood lost for the eighth time in nine starts despite limiting Milwaukee to five hits and three runs over seven innings.
“(Wood) did a great job,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “Obviously he just threw the 3-0 pitch trying to get back in the count was kind of the difference in the ballgame. He put a good swing on the ball that really we didn’t have all night.”
The Cubs have lost 21 of their last 27 games.
Wood provided the only offense on the night for Chicago, going deep off Gallardo in the third inning for this third career home run.
Milwaukee has beaten Chicago in 12 of their last 15 meetings, including Monday’s 15-4 drubbing which lasted 3 hours, 43 minutes.
Tuesday’s game moved at a much brisker pace.
Milwaukee tacked on a run in the eighth when Norichika Aoki doubled and stole third. He came home when Shawn Camp picked Rickie Weeks off first. As the Cubs chased Weeks in a rundown, Aoki slid home with the run on what was scored a fielder’s choice.
The Cubs’ beleaguered bullpen entered the game with a 6.09 ERA in August.
After Alfonso Soriano’s third-inning walk, Gallardo retired the last 13 Cubs he faced, striking out five.
Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro went 1 for 4, singling in his first at-bat and striking out to end the game. Before the game, Chicago announced that it had agreed to a seven-year extension with Castro, including an option for an eighth year that would keep Castro in a Cubs uniform past his 30th birthday.
NOTES: Before the game, the Cubs activated RHP Blake Parker from the 60-day DL. Parker had been out since June 6 with a right elbow stress reaction. … LHP Alex Hinshaw was designated for assignment one night after he allowed five runs, including three consecutive homers, without retiring a batter during Milwaukee’s nine-run ninth. … Roenicke was pleased to hear the Baltimore Orioles signed LHP Randy Wolf, who Milwaukee released Aug. 22. “Hopefully he can go in there and start off well, and they like him enough to where he’ll be part of what they do,” Roenicke said. … Darwin Barney completed his 113th consecutive errorless game at second base for Chicago, tying an NL record set by San Diego’s David Eckstein in 2010.