Fowler leads Cubs past Brewers

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[July 23, 2016]  MILWAUKEE -- After nearly a month of watching from the sidelines, recovering from a strained right hamstring, Dexter Fowler was ready to get back into the action.

So when he finally returned to the Chicago Cubs starting lineup Friday night in Milwaukee, he wasted little time.

Fowler led off the game with a home run and finished with four hits as the Cubs beat the Brewers, 5-2, in front of a largely pro-Cubs sellout crowd of 42,243 at Miller Park.

"How about it?" Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Just right out of the gate."

He followed that with a two-run double in the second, then singled in the fourth and ninth innings to cap off his four-hit day.

"I was just happy to be back around the boys," said Fowler, who was batting .290 with 19 doubles and 28 RBIs when he went on the disabled list June 18. "I swung the bat a little bit, hitting off a tee and light stuff like that (during rehabilitation) but nothing adds up to actually getting real pitches."

Fowler would go on to score in the second on Anthony Rizzo's sacrifice fly, giving the Cubs an early 4-0 lead that would turn out to be more than enough of a cushion for Jason Hammel, who worked five-plus innings and held Milwaukee to two runs on four hits and a walk with two strikeouts to earn victories in consecutive starts for the first time since May 2.

Hammel had faced just one over the minimum when he allowed a one-out, solo home run to Ryan Braun in the fourth. The Brewers cut the deficit in half with an RBI single from Hernan Perez in the fifth but Hammel stranded Perez with a strikeout of Jonathan Villar to end the inning but gave way after Scooter Gennett led off the sixth with a double.

 

Madden said he wasn't taking any chances with a two-run lead and the heart of Milwaukee's order -- including Braun, 8-for-23 with two home runs and three RBIs in his career against Hammel -- due up.

"There was a chance for him to settle him right there, but those three guys, that's pretty much their Murderer's Row," Maddon said. "I just could not be very tolerant."

The move paid off: Carl Edwards Jr. retired the next three batters in order and Chicago's bullpen only allowed three baserunners -- on two walks and an error -- the rest of the way.

"The game every night's going to come down to hitting with runners in scoring position, certainly, and when you go 0-for-9, you're not going to put up big numbers."

After appearing to get back on track following a mid-season slump his last time out, Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson lasted only five innings against the Cubs and allowed four runs -- two earned -- on four hits and three walks while striking out three.

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Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler (24) high fives teammates following the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Chicago won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

After working around a first-inning error by Scooter Gennett, Nelson stymied his own cause when he sailed a throw well past first baseman Chris Carter that allowed Addison Russell to reach to open the second, setting the stage ultimately for Fowler's double.

"Defensively he kind of made a couple of mistakes that hurt him," Counsell said. "But I thought his stuff was good. A lead-off homer to Fowler, but I think you make a couple more plays and you don't give up two runs.

"In a different circumstance, he certainly stays in that game and keeps going. I felt like just all game we had to take shots to score when we could."

Chicago got an insurance run in the eighth on Miguel Montero's RBI single and Hector Rondon closed it out with a scoreless ninth for his 17th save of the season.

NOTES: Chicago activated OF Dexter Fowler from the disabled list. He had been out since June 18 with a strained right hamstring. ... LHP Mike Montgomery joined the Cubs in Milwaukee, two days after he was acquired from Seattle in a four-player trade. ... To make room for Fowler and Montgomery on the active roster, the Cubs optioned OF Albert Almora and RHP Spencer Patton to Triple-A Iowa. ... Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said OF Domingo Santana, out since June 8 with a sore right elbow, could begin a minor league rehab assignment this week. ... Chicago has won three of the first five meetings this season and is 25-13 in the last 38 meetings with Milwaukee, which has lost six consecutive series to the Cubs, including four of the last five at Miller Park.

[ 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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