Home News Nico Hoerner gets game-winning hit as Cubs beat Brewers

Nico Hoerner gets game-winning hit as Cubs beat Brewers

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MILWAUKEE – Miguel Amaya hoisted his catcher’s mask skyward and howled, leaping and then pumping his fist hard in celebration. The Cubs catcher had just made a game-ending tag at the plate on Owen Miller, completing a double play and giving the North Siders an exhausting victory.

It took 11 innings, but the Cubs pulled off a dramatic 7-6 win over the Brewers on Tuesday that robbed the Milwaukee fans at American Family Field of any game-winning Fourth of July fireworks. And it came one day after Chicago was dealt a gut-punch of a loss that marked a seventh defeat in eight games.

“We needed a win. Yeah, we needed a win,” Cubs left fielder Ian Happ said. “That momentum of that one made it a big win, but we needed to win a baseball game.”

Prior to the game, Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer held court with reporters in the visitors’ dugout, offering a similar sentiment. Since rattling off 11 wins in 13 games last month, Chicago has been slipping back down the National League Central standings.

After Monday’s loss, veteran reliever Michael Fulmer called this stretch of the season “must-win” games for the Cubs, and that is true from the perspective of Hoyer and his front-office team. The team’s decision-makers have until the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline to decide how to balance the team’s record against playoff odds and the long-term vision.

Each win helps inch the needle in the direction of buying and focusing on the second half, and not yet turning the page to 2024 and beyond. Hoyer noted that the “underlying numbers” for the Cubs — one being that the team is the only NL Central club with a positive run differential — paint a picture of a group capable of turning things around.

“We’ve 100% looked like a team that can win the division,” Hoyer said. “We’ve just had some of these long poor stretches that have knocked us back. I think that we have to stop that. Ultimately, there is a moment we have to make decisions. That moment’s not today. That moment’s not next week, but we’re going to have to make decisions.

“And my hope is that we can get to a place where we can feel good adding to this team. … But we have to play well to get to that place. And right now, we need to translate those underlying numbers into wins and losses at a better clip than we have so far.”

Hoyer cited the fact that the Cubs entered Tuesday with a 10-21 record in games decided by one or two runs.

“We’ve struggled in games where they’re kind of messy games,” he said. “We haven’t won those types of games.”

It was almost like the players heard him.

If there was ever a game that fell into that “messy” category, it was Tuesday’s tilt in Milwaukee. The Cubs built a 6-2 lead, but the Brewers battled back to tie things up in the ninth inning. There was mounting frustration with some calls that led to both first-base coach Mike Napoli and manager David Ross being ejected in the 11th inning.

“Everything was going against us,” said Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks, who allowed two runs (one earned) over six innings. “Hitting all the holes. Bad contact finding holes. We’re lining out to guys. And the whole time, everybody just stayed with it, stayed in the moment.

“But geez, what an unbelievable ending.”

In the 10th, Ross handed the ball to hard-throwing rookie Daniel Palencia, who was promoted from Triple-A Iowa before the game.

With one out and the automatic runner on second, Palencia gave up a single to left to Miller. Happ threw to the plate; Amaya applied a tag on Andruw Monasterio and then fired the ball to second base. Second baseman Nico Hoerner stayed with Miller, who was trying to move up on the play, nabbing him for a momentum-halting double play.

“Game’s over if you don’t make the play,” Happ said.

Hoerner’s run-scoring infield single in the top of the 11th set up a wild finish.

In the bottom of the frame, Miller was on third when Brice Turang sent a one-out fly ball to Happ. The Gold Glove-winning left fielder made the catch and came up firing, as Miller tagged and hustled for home. The throw was precise, Amaya was ready and the double play, Chicago’s second in two innings, put the Cubs in the win column.

“Great team effort,” Ross said. “To be able to fight back after all we’ve kind of gone through the last couple of days. Again, there’s so much character in that room. I wish people at home can feel that.”

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