CHICAGO -- Welcome to another edition of the Brewers-Cubs live blog, this time from the press box at Wrigley Field. Refresh your browser for regular updates.
Brewers manager Ned Yost said he would like to see six innings from starting pitcher Ben Sheets, who is returning from the disabled list and recovering from a sprained finger that landed him there and a blister that developed on the comeback trail.
"His pitch count will probably go to about 90 pitches," Yost said. "His shoulder is strong. His finger is in a lot better shape than it was with his last blister."
Cubs manager Lou Piniella told reporters before the game that his hitters will try to take a lot of pitches early to run up Sheets' pitch count.
Yost also revealed that right-hander Scott Linebrink, who was on the mound for the seventh-inning meltdown that cost the Brewers a victory on Tuesday night, probably won't pitch tonight. Yost said that was due to Linebrink's pitch count last night (25) and not a lack of confidence in the right-hander.
FIRST PITCH: 7:06 p.m.
GAME-TIME TEMPERATURE: A cool 68 degrees.
TOP OF THE FIRST
The night gets off to a disheartening start for the Brewers. Rickie Weeks steps in against Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano and hammers a line drive to right. Cliff Floyd catches the ball against the ivy, smacking his rib in the process. Zambrano gets Gabe Gross on a grounder and then strikes out Prince Fielder and reacts exuberantly. An obviously irritated Fielder watched Zambrano, staring daggers at the pitcher as he left the field. This could get interesting.
BOTTOM OF THE FIRST
Sheets looks excited as he faces leadoff man Alfonso Soriano. His fastball is popping the glove in the mid-90 mph range and he's working quickly, as is his custom. Soriano flies out to center.
R yan Theriot follows wiht a half-swing grounder that rolls up the mound to short. Theriot beats the throw from Craig Counsell, who started in place of J.J. Hardy, who is 2 for 11 (.182) in his career against Zambrano. Counsell is 5 for 19 (.263).
After a flyout by Derrek Lee and a stolen base by Theriot, Sheets retires Aramis Ramirez on a hard grounder to Rickie Weeks.
TOP OF THE SECOND
Well, the Brewers won't be no-hit tonight. Corey Hart drops a two-out bunt down the third-base line and Zambrano's throw hits him. Hart promptly steals second and takes third on an error on catcher Jason Kendall. It's Hart's 20th stolen base of the season. Two more homers will make him the Brewers' fifth 20-20 player. The others were Tommy Harper (31/38, 1970), Robin Yount (23/20, 1980), Jeromy Burnitz (27/20, 1997) and Marquis Grissom (20/24, 1999).
The "small-market" rally fizzles when Johnny Estrada strikes out. Speaking of Estrada, my firend and colleague Jayson Stark of ESPN pointed out over dinner that Estrada is rocketing up the charts for players with the most plate appearances without recording a stolen base. "I think he's third," Stark said. "Ryan Howard (of the Phillies) was on the list, too, but a writer told him about it and he stole a base that night."
That probably won't happen with Estrada any time soon. The guy is S-L-O-W.
BOTTOM OF THE SECOND
Turnabout time. In his first at-bat, Cliff Floyd flies deep to Corey Hart, who catches the ball on the warning track. Sheets strikes out Mark DeRosa, but his pitch count is up to 28 as Jacque Jones steps in. Jones works a walk and steals second, but is stranded when Kendall bounces out to Sheets.
Estrada has thrown out 6 of 65 basestealers this season.
TOP OF THE THIRD
With two out, Weeks is hit by a pitch. For some reason, he doesn't try to steal second and is forced when Gabe Gross bounces into a 3-4 fielder's choice.
BOTTOM OF THE THIRD
The Cubs strike first and the rally gets off to an unconventional start. Zambrano, a .246 hitter with occasional power, leads off with an infield hit. He takes second on Soriano's single to center. Lee's one-out single loads the bases for Ramirez, who knocks in the first run of the game with a sacrifice fly to right. Corey Hart's throw to third almost nabs Soriano, who was coasting into the base and may have tweaked his hamstring on a closer-than-expected play. Sheets retires Floyd on a fly to left to end the inning.
TOP OF THE FOURTH
Cubs 1, Brewers 0
Fielder didn't like Zambrano's strikeout celebration in the first and gets his revenge with a double to left-center. He celebrates with some festive clapping on the bag.
Fielder's smile disappears as Ryan Braun and Geoff Jenkins strike out, but Corey Hart punches a line drive into the right-field corner for a game-tying RBI triple.
Estrada ends the inning with a chopper to the mound, which Zambrano fields cleanly. A press box wag says "Linebrink, take note," a reference to a key play in the seventh last night.
BOTTOM OF THE FOURTH
Brewers 1, Cubs 1
Mark DeRosa leads off wiht a double to left. Jacque Jones moves him to third with a grounder to the right side. With Kendall at the plate, the Brewers move their infield in -- a risky strategy that has backfired several times this season. This time, it works. Kendall grounds to Counsell, who looks DeRosa back to third and fires across the diamond for the out.
Zambrano steps in, prompting a writer to suggest that hte Brewers walk him to face Soriano. Zambrano almost lifts a flyball over Jenkins' head, but the leftfielder corrals it and jogs in to be congratulated by his pitcher near the first-base foul line.
Sheets has thrown 66 pitches through four innings and looks strong. Word in the press box is that Roger Clemens has a no-hitter through five against Boston in the Bronx, but the scoreboard just flashed a "1" for the Red Sox in the sixth, so that's likely over.
TOP OF THE FIFTH
Brewers 1, Cubs 1
Once again, Floyd uses his defense to thwart a Brewers' leadoff man. Counsell opens the inning with a sharp single to right. He rounds first base hard. Floyd bobbles the ball. Counsell freezes momentarily, then heads for second. Floyd's throw is on the mark and Counsell is out. The Brewers tried to push things on the bases like that earlier in the season and had some decent results. This wasn't a good start.
The play is impact of the play resounds quickly. After a groundout by Sheets, Weeks is hit by a pitch for the second straight at-bat. Gross follows with a double, scoring Weeks with the go-ahead run. The Cubs opt to walk Fielder intentionally, bringing up Braun.
The strategy works. Braun grounds out to end the inning.
(Author's note: We're two innings away from the 7th inning stretch. Tonight's celebrity conductor is Cubs TV announcer Bob Brenly, who has a tough act to follow after Bob Uecker's performance last evening. The guest conductor is a tradition here at Wrigley, but many Cubs fans think it has jumped the shark. The team is having an online contest to select a fan to do it. That's usually a sign that it's time to give it up).
BOTTOM OF THE FIFTH
Brewers 2, Cubs 1
Sheets is on target to fulfill Yost's pre-game expectations. He needs just seven pitches to retire the Cubs in order and will enter the sixth with 73 pitches.
TOP OF THE SIXTH
Brewers 2, Cubs 1
Zamrano looks strong as he makes his third journey through the Brewers' lineup. Jenkins strikes out. Hart grounds out. Estrada singles, but Counsell lines out to center.
Earlier this year, the Brewers seemed like their offense was combustible -- ready to fire at any time. Lately, they score two or three runs in a game and you get the feeling that might be it.
BOTTOM OF THE SIXTH
Brewers 2, Cubs 1
Sheets serves up a one-out single to Floyd, but he is erased on a double play. Joe Dillon is stepping in to the on-deck circle. Sheets is done. He threw 85 pitches and gave up a run, six hits and a walk. He struck out two. For a guy who hasn't thrown a pitch in anger for six weeks, it was an impressive outing.
TOP OF THE SEVENTH
Brewers 2, Cubs 1
The offensive breakthrough that the Brewers have been waiting for finally arrives. Dillon flies out, but Weeks singles to center. Gabe Gross follows with what appears to be a double-play grounder. The Cubs botch it, though, when Theriot drops the feed from second.
With men on first and second and one out, Fielder inside-outs a bloop hit to left. Weeks stumbles heading into third, recovers, touches the bag and falls down, costing his close friend a RBI.
Mistakes like that can torpedo an inning. Lou Piniella makes a long, slow walk to the mound. To the delight of the crowd, he makes his visit short and leaves Zambrano in the game.
Braun, who has looked anxious at the plate, rifles a ball past Ramirez at third. Just as the ball heads to the outfield, a ball from the bullpen eludes a catcher and sails past Ramirez onto the infield. Two runners score on the play, and it's easy to envision the advertisement: "Help wanted: Bullpen catcher. Apply at 1060 W. Addison."
Piniella returns to the mound, this time to make a pitching change. He calls for lefty Scott Eyre. Yost has the option of hitting for Jenkins, but decides not to do so; he probably didn't want to weaken his defense in left.
Jenkins vindicates the skipper by hitting a two-run double to right to make the score 6-1. Hart singles -- the fifth hit of the inning, but Estrada bounces into a 6-4-3 double play. Jenkins makes a concerted effort to disrupt the proceedings, but we told you Estrada was S-L-O-W.
BOTTOM OF THE SEVENTH
Brewers 6, Cubs 1
Brian Shouse, the Brewers' most reliable reliever for weeks, gets the ball in the seventh. True to form (with the way things have gone lately), he serves up hits to the first two batters he faces. After a flyout by Matt Murton, Shouse coaxes a grounder from Soriano, who beats the relay to put runners at the corners.
With Theriot up, Yost summons newly-promoted right-hander Seth McClung. McClung has been throwing bullets lately and jumps ahead in the count, 0-2. Theriot seems a tad late with the swing, fouling off some pitches to the right side before ending the inning with a broken-bat grounder to Weeks.
TOP OF THE EIGHTH
Brewers 6, Cubs 1
Kerry Wood is on to pitch for the Cubs. He looks considerably thinner than he did a few years ago and word is that his velocity isn't what it once was, either.
Derrick Turnbow is warming up in the Brewers' bullpen. When was the last time Yost was able to use Turnbow in the eighth and Francisco Cordero in the ninth during a victory? It seems like months.
Wood gets Counsell to pop out and then strikes out Hardy, who entered as a defensive replacement in the seventh (Counsell now at third). Hardy is the 1,306th strikeout victim for Wood, who passes Greg Maddux for sole possession of fourth place on the Cubs' all-time list.
Weeks draws a walk, reaching base for the fourth straight plate appearance, but Gross takes a called third strike.
BOTTOM OF THE EIGHTH
Brewers 6, Cubs 1
Turnbow retired Lee on a lfyout, but walks Ramirez and skips a pitch past Estrada, allowing Ramirez to move to second. Turnbow retires the next two men without incident. Cubs fans are heading to the exits en masse as we head to the ninth. Cordero is starting to get loose. This isn't going to be a save situation, but he needs the work and the Brewers need a victory.
TOP OF THE NINTH
Brewers 6, Cubs 1.
Just got word from a source at last night's game that NBA player Juwan Howard was in the stands with a girl in a Brewers t-shirt.
Bill Hall, who has been struggling mightily at the plate, lines to third in a pinch-hit appearance. Hall has been working hard with hitting coach Jim Skaalen, but can't seem to recapture his groove.
The Brewers go down quietly in the ninth. Here comes Cordero. This should be a comfortable lead for the Brewers, but they seem to have a thing about five-run leads this season.
BOTTOM OF THE NINTH
Brewers 6, Cubs 1
Cordero keeps the peace. The Brewers are back at .500, 1 1/2 games behind the Cubs. Sheets gets his 11th victory, the first by one of the Brewers' top three starters since June 30, when Sheets beat the Cubs. Zambrano has lost four straight starts for the first time in his career. The word in the Cubs clubhouse is that he's struggling with his arm angle. The Brewers won't see him against until spring training.
Good night, fans. Drive home safely.
Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at OnMilwaukee.com. Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.