MILWAUKEE (AP) The Chicago Cubs seemed to be on their way to a playoff spot after a summertime surge moved them into contention.
In a matter of a few weeks, it all fell apart.
Yan Gomes hit a grand slam, but the Cubs were knocked out of the playoff picture during a 10-6 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday night.
“We just got cold,” Gomes said. “One of the biggest things I'd keep mentioning is it wasn't because of a lack of effort. We went out there, we gave it our best. It just didn't work out. We're going to take a big learning experience from this. Whatever the future holds, I know we're going to learn from it.”
Chicago's game was going into the eighth inning when Miami finished its 7-3 victory at Pittsburgh, securing an NL wild card and eliminating the Cubs.
“It stinks,” said Jameson Taillon, who pitched four innings for his first career save. “I was just thinking this would be a really fun team to compete with in the playoffs and pop champagne with. This is a great group.”
The Cubs were 10 games below .500 in early June, but they rebounded in a big way. They were in prime playoff position after improving to 78-67 with a 5-4 victory at Colorado on Sept. 11.
“We all wanted and expected to be in the postseason,” Cubs outfielder Cody Bellinger said. “That’s what we strive for in spring training. We thought we had the group. We had a great team. We were playing unbelievable baseball in July to even put us in this situation.”
Then came a September swoon.
Before Saturday's victory at Milwaukee, the Cubs had lost four in a row by a total of five runs. They also had dropped nine straight road games.
“I think that sometimes the ball just doesn't roll how you want it to roll,” Bellinger said. “It was a tough ending. We all expected to come out on top. Overall we expected more. But we still fought till the very end and gave it our best shot.”
Chicago (83-78) spent the top of the first inning taking out its frustration on Eric Lauer (4-6), who was making his first major league appearance since May 20 with the NL Central champion Brewers (91-70) resting their top starting pitchers.
On Lauer’s third pitch, Christopher Morel hit a 431-foot drive over the wall in left. Lauer walked three of his next four batters before Gomes connected for his 10th homer. Two batters later, Patrick Wisdom homered to right-center.
But the Cubs blew a 6-0 lead for the second time in five nights. This one vanished in just two innings.
Milwaukee’s Willy Adames hit a two-run double to highlight a three-run rally against Jordan Wicks in the bottom of the first. Blake Perkins delivered a two-run homer and Carlos Santana added a tying solo shot in the second before the Cubs removed Wicks, who had allowed no more than three runs in any of his previous six starts.
The Cubs regained the lead by scoring twice in the fourth, despite having two runners thrown out at the plate. Ian Happ hit a tiebreaking RBI single and Bellinger added a run-scoring double.
Lauer allowed eight runs, nine hits and four walks in four innings.
“Just the first inning, he kind of struggled with throwing the ball where he wanted to,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “That got him into trouble. I think he settled in a bit actually and was able to get through the second, third and fourth. But the first inning - maybe the first 20 or so pitches - he was really struggling kind of with knowing where the ball was going.”
Hayden Wesneski (3-5), Javier Assad and Taillon combined for 7 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Wicks.
Cubs 2B Nico Hoerner rested after fouling a ball off his left knee Friday night. The Cubs say he has a bruised knee.
LHP Justin Steele (16-5, 3.08 ERA) pitches for the Cubs and RHP Adrian Houser (7-5, 4.32 ERA) starts for the Brewers on Sunday afternoon.
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