CHICAGO – Last minute changes are a bit part of this pandemic-shortened season, and there figures to be plenty of them before things come to an end.
Alec Mills saw his night get altered on Friday at Wrigley Field, but it was for something a little more normal.
Back pain forced Tyler Chatwood to sit out his start against the Brewers, meaning that Mills was thrust into action to take his place on the mound. Already with a pair of wins and a 2.84 ERA, the 28-year old pitcher once again came through for the Cubs with a decent start against the division rivals.
It would have been a great one, but one mistake cost him dearly.
After allowing a hit and then hitting a batter to start the sixth, Christian Yelich buried a three-run homer into the empty right-center field bleachers. It was one of the few mistakes that Mills made all night, but it was enough to hand him a loss in a 4-3 defeat to Milwaukee on Friday.
Mills was perfect through the first four innings and had surrendered just one run in the fifth before making the mistake pitch to Yelich in the sixth. It spoiled the outing in which he surrendered five hits while striking out seven compared to one walk.
But the Cubs’ offense couldn’t bail him out, getting all three of their runs in the bottom of the fifth inning but couldn’t break through again. It stopped a three-game Cubs’ winning streak, though they still retain a 5 1/2 game lead in the NL Central.
What didn’t help Mills was the fact that Brandon Woodruff mirrored his performance on the mound. The Milwaukee starter held the Cubs without a hit until he got into trouble in the fifth inning. After the Brewers got a run on a double-play groundout in the top half of the fifth, the Cubs got three-straight hits, including a Jason Kipnis RBI single to tie it at one.
After issuing back-to-back walks to Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ, the last of which brought home a run, Anthony Rizzo’s single to right-center made it 3-1.
Yet after Yelich’s homer, the Cubs would add no more as three Milwaukee relievers held the lead. Josh Hader did yeoman’s work in the final innings, striking out Josh Phegley with the bases loaded to end the eight then sealing the win in the ninth with his fourth save.
It should have turned out better for Mills in his short-notice start, but one mistake came back to bite him.