Gennett, Villar double up to lead defense's strong night
By Curt Hogg
MILWAUKEE -- With the Brewers and Cubs in a scoreless tie in the third inning, starting pitcher Jimmy Nelson's defense helped him keep it that way. And then they did so again and again as Nelson pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings in Milwaukee's 2-1, 13-inning loss on Wednesday night at Miller Park.
Second baseman Scooter Gennett made a diving stop to his right on a sharp grounder off the bat of Jason Heyward and flipped the ball with his glove to shortstop Jonathan Villar for the forceout at second. Villar made a barehand stab and unleashed a rocket to first base in time to double up Heyward.
"It's just one of those plays that, in order to practice it, you'd have to lay down and get dirty and do it," Gennett said. "But it's something that kind of comes natural for certain guys who play second."
Gennett's diving stab sparked the first of three double plays over four innings for the Brewers, who doubled up Addison Russell in the fourth and Anthony Rizzo in the sixth.
Nelson received more help from his infield in the seventh inning on another grounder by Russell. The Cubs shortstop pounded a 1-1 sinker to third baseman Aaron Hill, who deflected the ball to Villar deep in the hole. Villar's strike to first beat Russell to the bag to end the inning.
With Nelson working in a rhythm and the Cubs hitting right into the Brewers defensive shifts, it made for a good combo for Gennett, Villar and company.
"I think there's a rhythm part of the game when it comes to a guy that's out there and everything is flowing right and he's executing pitches," Gennett said. "But at the same time, if the ball's not hit at you or hit near you, you can't do anything. It's a little bit of both. It's about them executing their pitches but also the hitter doing what he's supposed to do in terms of scouting."
Nelson was able to dodge trouble in nearly every inning. The trifecta of double plays aided his cause, as did an inning-ending caught stealing of Dexter Fowler by catcher Jonathan Lucroy in the fifth.
The potential runs saved, however, were not enough as the Brewers went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position in the extra innings.
It was the second consecutive night where the defense aided Milwaukee's starting pitcher significantly. In Tuesday's 4-2 win, center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis' leaping grab at the wall in center field was the highlight of another set of gems.
The Brewers' gloves matched that effort in Wednesday night's low-scoring, five-hour marathon as a follow-up. "We had some big plays defensively, certainly," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "The double play with Scooter sticks out early in the game. We played very well defensively."
Curt Hogg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Milwaukee. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.