MILWAUKEE -- Thirty-eight games into their season and the National League Central-leading Cubs still have not lost on consecutive days.
They came close on Wednesday night at Miller Park, but Chicago tied the game in the ninth off previously perfect Brewers closer Jeremy Jeffress, escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the 12th and won in the 13th, 2-1, on pitcher Travis Wood's bases-loaded walk.
"Whenever you win a game like that on the road, it really says a lot about your group," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We hit the ball well all night long. To say you hit the ball well in a 2-1 victory in 13 innings is kind of like, 'I'm an idiot' but I'm not. We actually swung the bat really well. Our defense, to coin an old phrase, was Johnny on the spot."
Wood retired three straight Brewers batters with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 12th before stepping to the plate against Carlos Torres, who had just intentionally walked Miguel Montero to move the potential go-ahead run to third base, knowing the Cubs had long ago employed their last bench player. A career .181 hitter, Wood swung at strike one before looking at four consecutive pitches out of the zone.
"You shouldn't be walking the pitcher, no matter how you look at it," Torres said. "You should make him put it in play, although Wood is a good hitter. That's well-known. You still have to make him put it in play."
Maddon said he told Wood that if he got out of the mess in the 12th, the lefty would get an at-bat. And he did.
"He's always said that he wants to hit a walk-off homer," Kris Bryant said of Wood. "I guess that was close to it."
Wood then returned to the mound for the bottom of the 13th and teamed with Neil Ramirez and Clayton Richard to seal the Cubs' victory. Richard stranded the potential winning run at second base for his first career save.
Right-hander Jimmy Nelson continued the Brewers' string of encouraging starts by pitching 7 1/3 scoreless innings, and reliever Tyler Thornburg stranded a pair of Cubs runners in the eighth to pass the shutout to Jeffress, who found trouble after hitting the first batter he faced with a curveball. The Cubs eventually tied the game on Addison Russell's run-scoring groundout, sending the game toward extra innings.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Magic act: The Brewers loaded the bases with nobody out in the 12th, prompting a flurry of maneuvers by the Cubs. Bryant came in from left field to third base for a five-man infield against pinch-hitter Hernan Perez, who flied out to shallow center. The runners didn't advance. Bryant and first baseman Javier Baez then switched gloves and places against Aaron Hill, who popped up to Russell at shortstop. Bryant grabbed his outfield glove and returned to left with Baez back at first against Martin Maldonado, who popped up to Baez.
"We had every chance to win the game by executing offensively," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "We just didn't get it done. … The bases loaded, nobody out, that was the big one for me. That was the inning we really had a shot at it to end the game."
Said Baez: "It felt like when you play Little League and keep moving around. You just try to have fun and win games."
All square: Counsell's wheels were turning in the ninth after Jeffress plunked Anthony Rizzo and surrendered a sharp single to Ben Zobrist. Both runners advanced on a groundout, and Counsell had a decision to make: Bring the infield in for a chance at a play at the plate and risk a ground ball getting through for two runs? Or play the infield back, conceding a run on a ground ball but reducing the likelihood of the Cubs taking the lead? Counsell chose the latter, and Russell's groundout to second base produced a 1-1 tie. Zobrist moved to third, and was stranded there when Jeffress struck out pinch-hitter Tim Federowicz.
"You can't get them all, just like you can't win them all," Jeffress said. More >
Start me up: Chicago starter John Lackey can't seem to get any run support. In his last outing against the Padres, the right-hander gave up one run over eight innings and took the loss, 1-0. On Wednesday, he served up one run over six innings. He has a 1.86 ERA (six earned runs over 29 innings) in his last four starts.
Double the pleasure: The Brewers turned double plays in three different innings for Nelson, none prettier than the one second baseman Scooter Gennett initiated in the third. Nelson had just hit Dexter Fowler in the leg with an errant fastball, and Jason Heyward followed by making solid contact on a ground ball up the middle. Gennett dove to prevent the baseball from reaching the outfield and flipped it with his glove to shortstop Jonathan Villar, who caught it bare-handed, stepped on second base and fired a throw to first to complete the play. The Brewers also turned double plays in the fourth and the sixth. More >
"I think the whole team is pretty frustrated. We battled pretty hard against a good team." -- Nelson, who is winless in his last two starts despite allowing two runs in 15 1/2 innings
"We're yelling and screaming. The hardest thing to have in a late game is energy and you're trying to get that energy level up. You want to be up there and have energy for them. We're up there screaming. Whatever they were playing [in the stadium], I was singing and dancing to." -- Cubs catcher David Ross, on the dugout in the late innings
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Brewers' five best starts this season, as measured by Bill James' game score, have come in the team's last six games. Nelson scored a 69 on Wednesday, which rated third behind Junior Guerra's 70 from six scoreless innings in Friday's 1-0 win over the Padres, and Chase Anderson's 75 in Tuesday's no-hit bid against the Cubs.
With one out in the 12th, Heyward was called out trying to steal second base on a throw from catcher Jonathan Lucroy. The Cubs challenged the call, and after a review, the call stood.
WHAT'S NEXT Cubs:Jason Hammel will close the series against the Brewers on Thursday. The right-hander is coming off a win over the Pirates and is 5-0 for the first time in his career. Hammel is 8-0 with a 2.37 ERA in 11 career starts against the Brewers. First pitch will be 12:40 p.m. CT.
Brewers: Guerra will look to give the Brewers a win the series when he takes the mound at 12:40 p.m. for first pitch. Guerra's fourth Major League start of his career comes six days after pitching six scoreless frames in Milwaukee's 1-0 win over San Diego. The Brewers have not won a series against the Cubs since last May 8-10 when they took two out of three at Miller Park.