Rookie Jake Fox drew a walk-off walk with two outs in the 10th inning to give Chicago a 2-1 victory over Milwaukee to pull within 1 1/2 games of the Brewers, who fell a half-game behind the Cardinals, in the National League Central.
"This is a game we have to come through in," Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano said. "We have to beat these guys. St. Louis is coming, and we have to play good against them. I wish we could go with the same mentality that we had today against every other team. If we play like this against any other team, we'll be tough to beat."
With the game tied at 1 and one out in the 10th, Ryan Theriot singled to right past a leaping Craig Counsell and moved up on a wild pitch by Mark DiFelice (4-1). Theriot advanced on Derrek Lee's flyout to deep right field, and Milton Bradley was intentionally walked. DiFelice fell behind pinch-hitter Geovany Soto, and then intentionally walked him to load the bases for Fox, who worked the count full and then fouled off four straight pitches before drawing the game-winning walk.
Whether it was a ball or a strike depends on your point of view. The last call was so close that while the Cubs celebrated, DiFelice asked umpire Bill Welke where his pitch missed. Welke saw it as high.
"I saw the replay, and it looked like a strike to me," DiFelice said. "I think he missed it, and that's the ballgame."
"The last pitch looked pretty good to me," Brewers manager Ken Macha said.
"It was a slider that never really came back in," Fox said. "He made some good pitches in that at-bat. I have to tip my cap to him because he made some nasty pitches, but it was one of those scenarios where I was able to fight him off, fight him off, until either A, he gave me a good pitch to hit, or B, he made a mistake -- and he missed one there."
The defensive play of the game came in the Milwaukee seventh. The Brewers had runners at first and second with two outs when Prince Fielder singled to center. Pitcher Jeff Suppan tried to score on the hit, but was thrown out at home by center fielder Kosuke Fukudome.
"We knew that Suppan was running, so if the throw was accurate, we had a play," Cubs catcher Koyie Hill said. "Fuky did a good job tracking the ball. To make as accurate a throw as he did is really important. To go to his left and throw on the line, that's a good play."
Fukudome said it helped that it was a pitcher running.
"I wish I was a little bit faster, to be honest with you," Suppan said.
"Koyie told me after that play that it was good it was Suppan running and not [Mike] Cameron or any other speedy guy," Zambrano said. "When that ball was hit, I thought it was a chance to take him out at the plate. Fuku made a strong throw and got him at the plate. It was an exciting play."
Counsell and Ryan Braun both singled in the Brewers' fourth, and Zambrano then hit Fielder on the arm to load the bases. Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild had a few words with Zambrano, who got the next two batters to pop up, making one of the catches himself in foul territory. But Zambrano then walked Corey Hart to force in a run. That was OK with Zambrano.
"The game plan was not to let the big guy [Fielder] hurt you," Zambrano said.
Suppan appeared to retaliate when he plunked Lee on the left hip with a pitch with one out in the fourth. Welke issued a warning to both benches but did nothing when Suppan hit Fox with a pitch leading off the Chicago fifth. The plunking hurt Milwaukee regardless, as Mike Fontenot doubled, and one out later, Fox scored on Zambrano's single to center to tie the game.
Zambrano said he made an adjustment from his first at-bat in the third, when he tried to "hit the ball to the moon," to his second at-bat, when he just tried to put the barrel on the ball and make contact. It worked.
The Cubs right-hander posted his 10th quality start of the season, and he did so with a mixed bag of offspeed pitches. Instead of having his pitches register 95, 96 mph on the radar gun, it was more like 88, 89 mph.
"I was throwing a lot of split-finger [pitches] today," Zambrano said. "I said, 'I have to pitch like [Greg] Maddux and just move the ball.'"
Kevin Gregg (3-2) pitched two innings for the win, Bradley's misplay of Jason Kendall's ball in the ninth didn't hurt the team, just his pride, and the division got a little tighter. Now, if Zambrano could just figure out a way to get a little more run support.
"I was thinking about asking somebody where to buy a win; if there's any store that has a win for me, I'd go buy some," Zambrano said. "The most important thing is I pitched good and my team, we won today. I gave my team a chance to win the ballgame."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.