Yelich, Hader lead Brewers past Cubs in series finale
MILWAUKEE — Coming off four days of rest, All-Star reliever Josh Hader was ready for an extended outing for Milwaukee on Sunday.
Not what the slumping Chicago Cubs needed at the end of a miserable, season-opening road trip.
Christian Yelich homered and drove in three, Hader completed an eight-out save and the Brewers beat the Cubs 4-2 to take two of three in the series.
The Cubs lost for the seventh time in eight games, dropping to 2-7 ahead of their home opener Monday.
Chicago threatened with two baserunners in the seventh inning, but a well-rested Hader entered to clean up that mess and cruised from there. The hard-throwing left-hander struck out three over 2 2/3 perfect innings, throwing 36 pitches for his fifth save. He hadn’t pitched since Tuesday against Cincinnati.
“We rode him a long time today,” Yelich said. “You know when he has that much rest, he is going to come out and be pretty good.”
Zach Davies (1-0) pitched effectively into the sixth, helping Milwaukee win for the seventh time in eight games. The Brewers have won 15 of their last 16 regular season series dating to last year.
“Everything felt pretty good today,” Davies said.
Willson Contreras’ two-run homer in the sixth against Davies was unearned, and that was all Chicago could muster at the plate. Davies pitched 5 2/3 innings of five-hit ball, and Alex Claudio got two outs before handing off to Hader.
The teams combined for 45 runs in the first two games, including a 13-10 Brewers win Friday, before pitching took over in the finale.
“We’ve shown, and what I like, is that we can win games in different ways,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “That’s what a deep team should be able to do.”
Cubs manager Joe Maddon was pleased with his team’s play despite the loss.
“It doesn’t always work out as a win, but if you play enough good games and you play the game right, you win your fair share,” Maddon said.
Yelich struck a two-run homer in the first inning off Kyle Hendricks (0-2), his fifth of the season and 100th of his career.
Travis Shaw’s run-scoring single in the third made it 3-0. Milwaukee loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth but managed just one run on Yelich’s sacrifice fly.
Hendricks surrendered four runs and eight hits in four innings. He walked one and struck out four over 75 pitches.
After giving up a single to Ben Zobrist to lead off the game, Davies (1-0) retired nine in row before Kris Bryant’s one-out bloop single in the fourth.
Davies cruised until the sixth, when Anthony Rizzo reached on first baseman Eric Thames’ error and Javier Baez had an infield hit. Milwaukee nearly escaped with a groundball double play, but Contreras hit a two-run homer to chase Davies.
The Cubs threatened again the seventh, putting runners on the corners with one out before Hader came on to record the final two outs, including a strikeout of Rizzo.
FIRST FOR YELICH
Yelich hit his first home run against the Cubs since joining the Brewers last season.
“It’s crazy because we play them so much,” Yelich said. “They always pitch me tough.”
Bryant has started slowly after struggling late last season due to a left shoulder injury. He was lifted from Saturday night’s game after striking out in four consecutive at-bats. Bryant went 1 for 4 Sunday and is hitting .231.
“He’s working through some things right now, but the big thing is he’s healthy,” Maddon said. “He’s an elite player. He’s going to start hitting, I really believe that.”
The Brewers recalled RHP Jake Petricka from Triple-A San Antonio. RHP Taylor Williams was optioned to San Antonio.
Brewers: 1B Jesus Aguilar, LF Ryan Braun and C Yasmani Grandal, all regular starters, got the day off.
Cubs: Chicago will open at home Monday against Pittsburgh. Jon Lester (1-0, 3.00 ERA) will make his third start of the season. He’s 9-6 with a 3.18 ERA in 18 career starts against the Pirates.
Brewers: Jhoulys Chacin (2-0, 4.22) will take the mound in the opener of a three-game series in Los Angeles against the Angels.