Patient Cubs make Nelson work over 5 1/3

Patient Cubs make Nelson work over 5 1/3

CHICAGO -- Brewers right-hander Jimmy Nelson said getting tired wasn't the issue.

But in Tuesday's 4-3 loss against a Cubs lineup regarded as among the best in baseball, and a 34-degree wind chill that weakened bats and arms alike, Nelson's walks increased with his pitch count. It proved to be just enough to spoil what was otherwise another impressive start.

"Jimmy pitched well," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "His pitch count just kind of got up there quick on him."

Nelson threw 109 pitches and yielded only two hits in his 5 1/3 innings, but his four walks became his undoing. Nelson has walked four or more hitters in three of his five starts this season. His 14 walks issued this year are tied for sixth-most in the Majors, but Nelson wasn't making any convenient excuses Tuesday.

"I make sure in the offseason and between my starts that fatigue is never the issue," Nelson said.

He held the Cubs scoreless through four innings, pitching hard in to lefties and limiting Cubs' hitters with his sinking fastball. The ball wasn't flying around the park, but the Cubs still found a way to get to Nelson. They did it with their trademark patient approach, running up the pitch count and capitalizing on the few opportunities they had.

"They were pretty patient today," Nelson said. "They probably only swung at a handful of offspeed pitches. They were attacking the fastball and spit on some pretty good pitches."

Nelson walked Jorge Soler on a seven-pitch plate appearance to lead off the fifth, and he went on to walk pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella before surrendering a game-tying sacrifice fly to Dexter Fowler.

Despite his rising pitch count, Nelson came back out for the sixth, in which Aaron Hill made an error and Nelson walked Ben Zobrist before leaving the game. Addison Russell hit a two-run triple off reliever Carlos Torres to charge Nelson with two unearned runs and pin him with the loss.

"That's what happens to the starter," Counsell said. "He gets to a point, and I think he was our best guy to go out to the sixth inning. It just didn't work out."

That's how Tuesday went for the Brewers. Nelson was almost great. Hill almost hit a ninth-inning, go-ahead home run. Milwaukee almost won.

But Hill's ball turned into a flyout at the warning track, Nelson's start had a few too many blemishes, and too many of the Brewers' chances came up empty.

"It was tough to score runs tonight," Counsell said. "The wind was a factor. … They got a couple of two-out hits, and that was the difference."

Cody Stavenhagen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.