More opening-day woes at Wrigley Field for the Brewers as they are blanked by the Cubs
CHICAGO -- This opening-day thing at Wrigley Field just isn't working out for the Milwaukee Brewers.
For the third time in the last four seasons and the second straight, they fell to the Chicago Cubs in the teams' lid lifter -- this one an uninspired 4-0 shutout played on a chilly but sunny Thursday afternoon in front of 36,054 fans.
The wind was blowing in for the entirety of what was a station-to-station affair for both teams, with the Brewers managing a scant four singles against starter Marcus Stroman and three relievers and the Cubs doing all their damage against Milwaukee ace Corbin Burnes in the third inning.
"It was a day where offense was going to be difficult, as you get with many days here early in the season," said manager Craig Counsell. "We didn't do much offensively."
The Cubs' big-ticket signing in the offseason, Dansby Swanson, had three hits and also played his usual stellar defense at shortstop as he made a positive first impression for his team.
A pair of batters reached for the Brewers in the first inning only to see Stroman wriggle off the hook with a strikeout of William Contreras.
BOX SCORE: Cubs 4, Brewers 0
Milwaukee put more pressure on the right-hander in the third, loading the bases on a Brice Turang infield single in his first major-league at-bat, and then walks by Christian Yelich and Willy Adames, only to see Rowdy Tellez ground into a rally-killing, 4-6-3 double play.
"Certainly, the second inning with the bases loaded was a good scoring chance, for sure," said Counsell. "We put some runners on, but there weren't many hits today and the ball was on the ground a whole bunch for both teams."
Burnes, who issued a walk in the first and hit a batter in the second, did himself no favors by walking Patrick Wisdom to start the bottom of the frame.
Consecutive one-out singles to right by Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson netted Chicago the first two runs of the game, with an ill-advised throw to first base by Adames on the cutoff allowing Hoerner to score.
Burnes answered by walking Ian Happ, then after fanning Cody Bellinger for the second out, Trey Mancini singled to left to make it 3-0.
Slow-footed catcher Yan Gomes followed with a roller up the middle, but for some reason Adames tried in vain to beat a sliding Mancini instead of throwing to first for what would have been an easy out.
Happ scored to make it 4-0 -- a deficit that proved to be more than enough to stand up the rest of the way.
"A bunch of these hitters in the Cubs' lineup, contact is something they do well," Counsell said. "They hit some balls in the right spots and he put some guys on base that he normally doesn't do with the walks.
"But I think facing the Cubs, you're going to see contact."
Burnes (0-1) was pulled after the fifth inning having allowed four hits, four runs and three walks with three strikeouts over 87 pitches.
Stroman (1-0) lasted six innings, surrendering three hits and three walks with eight strikeouts in his 90-pitch outing.
Among the three relievers who pitched behind him was Brad Boxberger, who faced the minimum in the seventh thanks to a ground-ball double play induced against Adames.
The only other notable the rest of the way was the work turned in by the bullpen as Peter Strzelecki, Rule 5 draftee Gus Varland and Javy Guerra provided three innings of scoreless relief behind Burnes.
Varland's appearance was his major-league debut.
The four newcomers in Milwaukee's lineup -- Jesse Winker, Contreras, Brian Anderson and Turang -- combined to go 3 for 13 with a walk and seven strikeouts.
"We had some chances early and couldn't capitalize," Yelich said of Milwaukee's offensive output in general. He finished 0 for 2 with two walks. "It's part of the game; it happens. We had some early traffic and then it quieted down a little bit as the game went on.
"Coming into the game and especially playing in this stadium early in the year, you kind of know it's not going to be a super friendly offensive environment, so if you get a good chance, you've got to take advantage of it and we just couldn't do it."
The teams have Friday off then resume the series at 1:20 p.m. Saturday with Brandon Woodruff facing off against left-hander Justin Steele.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Brewers' opening day woes continue with shut out loss to Cubs