MILWAUKEE -- Chase Anderson took a perfect game into the sixth inning and a no-hitter into the eighth before settling for his best start in a Brewers uniform, pitching to within one strike of a shutout in Milwaukee's 4-2 win over the Cubs on Tuesday night at Miller Park.
Boosted by a series of defensive gems and Jonathan Lucroy's fourth-inning solo home run, Anderson retired the Cubs' first 16 hitters before walking Miguel Montero with one out in the sixth. The no-hitter remained intact into the eighth, when Ben Zobrist pounced on a fastball leading off the inning for a double to the base of the wall in center field. Anderson escaped without allowing a run, and when he took the mound for the start of the ninth, he became the first Brewers starter to do so this season.
"When you execute pitches, I think that you can get anyone out, no matter who it is," Anderson said. "You can put nine Ken Griffey Jrs. up there, but if you execute pitches, it's hard to hit. When you don't execute, those guys make you pay. You saw it in the last inning."
Anderson retired the first two batters of the ninth and had Jason Heyward in an 0-2 count before Heyward homered to right field. Kris Bryant followed two pitches later with another solo homer to right, promoting a call for Brewers closer Jeremy Jeffress, who recorded the final out for his 11th save.
"He hit his spots, was mixing speeds well," Chicago starter Kyle Hendricks said. "It was more of what I needed to do today. It was fun to watch."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Going deep: Lucroy was limited to four doubles, one triple and no home runs in April, but he has discovered his home run stroke in May. Tuesday's shot gave Lucroy a homer in three straight games, and he has six so far this month. It's a big boost to his value as the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline approaches, though Lucroy was much more eager to discuss his work behind the plate with Anderson.
"It was a lot of fun to be a part of," Lucroy said. "It's awesome to see him throw like that. The potential is there to be able to do that, so hopefully that will give him a little boost and we can continue working our way up from there."
Breaking through: Zobrist jumped on a first-pitch fastball for his double to open the eighth and collect the first hit off Anderson. He now has reached safely in his last 23 starts and has five doubles, five home runs, 24 RBIs and 20 walks in that stretch. In the eighth, he advanced on Javier Baez's fly ball to right but was stranded as Anderson got Montero to ground out and end the inning. Heyward spoiled the shutout bid by hitting his first home run with the Cubs, and Bryant followed with his seventh of the season to chase Anderson.
"I know it's going to come," Heyward said. "I've been on stretches where I've gone with no homers. It happens. You have to keep putting it together and keep building on that and go forward. I'm trying to do what I can to contribute." More >
Braun is back: The Brewers scored three crucial insurance runs in a sixth inning that included an RBI single for Ryan Braun and a two-run double for Chris Carter. Braun, who returned to the lineup after missing two games with a sore right wrist, has been the Brewers' best hitter this season with runners in scoring position, entering Tuesday with a .421/.522/.658 slash line in those situations.
Glovework: The Brewers seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Kirk Nieuwenhuis robbed Fowler of extra bases to lead off the game with a catch on the warning track in right-center, then made a leaping catch at the wall in left-center of Bryant's fly ball to end the Cubs' first. Third baseman Aaron Hill was in perfect position on the right side of the infield as part of a defensive shift in the second to catch Anthony Rizzo's hard-hit liner. In the third, Baez hit a chopper that deflected off Hill, and shortstop Jonathan Villar recovered in time to throw him out at first. More >
"We actually had a lot of good swings tonight," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We actually swung the bats pretty well and put a lot of balls in play, but we didn't have any real good luck. [Anderson] did pitch well -- I'm not taking anything away from him."
"This is still a game where executed pitches from a guy who is throwing the ball wins. That's what tonight shows you. No matter who you're facing. There's that adage, it holds true, and I think Chase pitched well tonight." -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell, on beating the first-place Cubs
"You expect games like this every now and then." -- Bryant, on the Cubs losing back-to-back games for only the second time this season
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Anderson missed an opportunity to erase one of Miller Park's oddest bits of trivia: The only no-hitter here in 16 seasons didn't involve the Brewers at all. It belongs to the Cubs' Carlos Zambrano, who blanked the Astros on Sept. 14, 2008, after a series was relocated from hurricane-battered Houston.
WHAT'S NEXT Cubs:John Lackey will make his eighth start of the season on Wednesday. He's coming off a loss to the Padres, although he pitched well, giving up one run over eight innings. He's 5-1 with a 3.11 ERA in eight career starts against the Brewers. First pitch will be 7:10 p.m. CT.
Brewers:Jimmy Nelson owns a 3.35 ERA in six career starts plus two relief appearances against the Cubs, yet the right-hander will be seeking his first victory against Chicago on Wednesday. Nelson has been the Brewers' best starting pitcher by far, and is coming off an eight-inning outing in a loss to the Padres that matched his career high for innings pitched.