Credit Gomez for forcing Chicago to make a play. After Axford (3-1) held Chicago scoreless in the top of the 10th inning, Gomez pinch-hit leading off the bottom half of the inning and drew a four-pitch walk, the ninth of the game for Brewers hitters and only Gomez's seventh this season. Cubs reliever Bob Howry (1-1) continued to have trouble finding the strike zone against Counsell, falling into a 2-0 hole, and Brewers manager Ken Macha flashed Gomez the green light.
Gomez took it, breaking for second on the pitch. Counsell executed a nice sacrifice bunt to third baseman Chad Tracy, who vacated the base to make the play. Cubs catcher Koyie Hill hustled up the line to cover and Gomez never slowed, forcing a throw across the diamond from first baseman Xavier Nady. It was wild, and Gomez scampered home with the winning run.
Has Counsell ever seen a game won on a walk-off sacrifice bunt?
"I saw it in the movie 'Major League,'" he joked.
In the movie, a savvy veteran (played by Tom Berenger) bunted home a speedy center fielder (played by Wesley Snipes). But Snipes only scored from second. Gomez had him beat by 90 feet.
"I looked a little bit to home plate and I saw Counsell drop a bunt, so I wasn't stopping," Gomez said. "They had no chance to throw me out at third, because the catcher had to run to third. ... It's kind of fun when you do things like that. After the game, you feel really good about yourself and more, the team. They have more energy. This is going to give a lot of energy to everybody."
Said Counsell: "It was great baserunning. I think he basically had it in his head that he was going to third and he never slowed down. They weren't going to get him, even with a good throw."
Hill, the Cubs' catcher, gave a good effort. But even with a leap, he couldn't catch Nady's wild throw.
"It was a perfect situation for the Brewers," Hill said. "They had a guy up there at the plate who takes a lot of pride in what he does and he practices those situations, so when it does come up, he gets the bunt down to the right side of the field. They have the perfect guy on first base, who is one of the fastest guys in the league, and they had one of the worst fundamental teams on the field, so it was a perfect situation for them."
The Cubs did indeed struggle with fundamentals, allowing the Brewers to score each of their final three runs without the benefit of a single hit.
In the fifth inning, Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder drew walks from Cubs starter Ryan Dempster. Two batters later, Casey McGehee hit a ground ball to second base, and Fielder alertly paused long enough in the baseline to avoid a double play. The Cubs got the out at first base, then turned their attention to Fielder in a rundown, giving Weeks an opportunity to break for home. He, too, was caught in a rundown, but Tracy threw the ball away and Weeks scored in a violent collision with starting catcher Geovany Soto.
"I think Rickie did a nice job of getting down the line," Macha said. "If we were going to make the out, it was going to be at home. Those two guys [Weeks and Fielder] produced a run there."
In the sixth, after Nady's two-run home run off Brewers starter Dave Bush gave the Cubs a 4-3 lead, the Brewers answered again with some help. With two outs, Jim Edmonds, making his first start in the leadoff hole since 1999, reached on shortstop Starlin Castro's throwing error. Cubs pitcher Tom Gorzelanny walked Weeks and Fielder to load the bases for another Cubs reliever, Jeff Stevens, who walked Ryan Braun to force home a run. That tied the game at 4 until the 10th, when the Brewers again scored without a hit.
The Brewers also scored the old-fashioned way. Bush helped his own cause with a two-out RBI single off Dempster in the fourth. Two innings earlier, Corey Hart put the Brewers on the board with a solo home run, his National League-leading 16th this season.
Hart had to contend with some distraction during that at-bat. The U.S. Navy's Blue Angels were buzzing Miller Park all afternoon, practicing for air shows on Milwaukee's lakefront this weekend. One fly-by rattled the stadium
just as Dempster was throwing a called Strike 2 to Hart.
"I saw it, but I couldn't swing at it," Hart said. "I was kind of backing away because I lost all focus on what I was doing."
He got it back quickly. The next pitch was a 92-mph fastball, and Hart sent it over the center-field fence.
"You kind of go with it," Hart said. "It was kind of fun watching other guys flinch when they flew over. Not so much for me. Those things are loud."
The Brewers took the series, 2-1.
"We're kind of slowly building momentum," Bush said. "I think there are some positive signs for us moving forward."
"We have a long way to go," Gomez said. "We have to keep focused on the little things. I didn't start the game today, but I won the game. You have to prepare yourself for anything."