CHICAGO -- The Brewers worried they'd won a big game but lost their best starting pitcher after Jimmy Nelson's early exit in Friday night's 2-0 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. They won't know for sure until Nelson undergoes additional testing on Saturday, but it appears those initial fears were unfounded.
Manager Craig Counsell was optimistic that Nelson's jammed right shoulder won't require an extended absence, and Nelson was similarly upbeat.
"It wasn't extremely painful, it was just a weird feeling, a loose feeling," said Nelson, who helped the Brewers pull within four games of the Cubs for first place in the National League Central. "With those [relievers] we just brought out of the bullpen, there's no real reason to push it. That's their win."
Relievers Josh Hader, Anthony Swarzak and Corey Knebel combined to pitch the final four innings of the Brewers' 10th shutout victory this season after Nelson was injured running the bases in the top of the fifth. He took a wide turn around first base after lining a John Lackey pitch off the ivy-covered wall in left field, then scampered back to the bag and slid headfirst safely.
Nelson briefly grabbed his right arm while he lay face down in the dirt, but appeared OK, and returned to the mound to pitch the bottom of the fifth. But after Brewers batters went down in the top of the sixth, Hader took over and was granted as much time on the mound as he needed to warm up.
Manual tests suggested there was no structural damage. The Brewers hope Saturday's tests confirm that diagnosis.
"He wasn't really in pain, but he just said it felt funny so we took him out," Counsell said. "We're optimistic, but we've got to get some tests and make sure."
Nelson worked around four hits, two walks and a hit batsman to lower his ERA to 3.49. His seven strikeouts left the 28-year-old one whiff shy of the 10th 200-strikeout season in Brewers history.
He originally was lined up to start Wednesday in Cincinnati, but the Brewers pushed Nelson back to start the opener of a three-game series against the first-place Cubs.
"He's been so great for us -- probably the single biggest reason we are where we're at," said Ryan Braun, who hit career home run No. 300 in the first inning to account for all of Friday's scoring. "Hopefully, it's not too bad. Obviously, kind of a freak play diving back into first base.
"Not a lot of time left in the season, so any time he misses will significantly impact our chances of making it to the postseason. Not ideal, but I think our bullpen deserves a ton of credit, especially when guys don't anticipate coming into the game that quickly."
That started with Hader, who pitched two perfect innings before walking the Cubs' leadoff hitter in the eighth. Swarzak carved through Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist to clean up that inning, and Knebel pitched the ninth for his 33rd save.
"That was pretty incredible work by the bullpen right there," Nelson said. "Those guys, coming out throwing some 'fuzz.' Pretty dominant."
Nelson was even feeling good enough to joke about his baserunning adventure.
"I looked up after I rounded first ... I am the slowest guy in the big leagues, so I was like, 'I don't want to try to stretch this,'" Nelson said. "[Bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel] and those guys work with us every day, so we're working on our hitting every day, even though it might not look like it."
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.