Kirk Nieuwenhuis homers twice as Milwaukee Brewers defeat Chicago Cubs

By Andrew Wagner, The Sports Xchange  |  July 24, 2016 at 1:59 AM
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MILWAUKEE -- Two games into a season-long 10-game home stand, nobody on the Milwaukee Brewers roster is happier to be back home than outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis.

Nieuwenhuis began the day batting .195 on the season, a number dragged down by an abysmal .116 average on the road. But back in Milwaukee, he's a completely different hitter, batting .286 with four home runs and 16 RBIs entering play Saturday.

Those numbers got a boost as Nieuwenhuis collected three hits including two home runs and reached base four times as the Brewers beat the Cubs 6-1 in front of a sellout crowd at Miller Park.

"It's pretty impressive, the numbers at home," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "They're mind-boggling, really, the differences. It's a hard one to explain, and I'm not going to be able to explain it. But certainly tonight he had a huge night."

Jonathan Lucroy got things started, hitting a two-run home run in the first inning that put Cubs starter John Lackey in an early hole. Nieuwenhuis' solo shot led off the fourth.

He then broke the game open with a three-run blast in the eighth inning off Mike Montgomery.

Nieuwenhuis' day started with a leadoff single in the second that snapped an 0-for-18 streak.

"The last couple of days I just tried to change my mentality a little bit," said Nieuwenhuis, who has hit six of his seven home runs at Miller Park. "I've just been pressing a lot the last three or four weeks. It seems like even longer than that. I've tried to take it one pitch at a time the last couple of days and see where that takes me."

Milwaukee's long-ball prowess allowed right-hander Zach Davies to settle in early.

Davies went 6 1/3 innings and scattered three hits and a pair of walks while striking out six. He had retired 10 straight batters when Ben Zobrist opened the seventh with a hit.

That was it for Davies.

"I was kind of slow to start, picking at the corners, but I made sure not to over-adjust and be out over the middle of the plate. Anything that was put into play went right at guys. It was awesome."

Davies has allowed only three earned runs over his last three starts and is 7-1 with a 2.83 ERA over his last 14 outings.

"He was excellent again," Counsell said. "His first (three) starts since the break have been absolutely outstanding. He's been really good. Again, it's off of four pitches. Him and (Lucroy) are really in sync and they've really kind of got hitters on the defense and not knowing what to look for. He's doing a nice job making pitches."

Lackey (7-7) went six innings for Chicago and allowed three runs on five hits and a pair of walks while striking out five.

"They hit a couple of home runs but I thought he threw the ball really well," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He had really good stuff. If we score a couple of runs he's had himself a good night."

Milwaukee took an early lead with two outs in the first inning when Lucroy capped off a 12-pitch at-bat by crushing a fastball to left-center for a two run home run -- his 13th of the season.

"Lucroy put a good at-bat on me," Lackey said. "I made a lot of good pitches in that AB and he finally got into one. I felt pretty good for the most part. I thought I threw the ball pretty well."

Lackey got out of the inning and stranded the bases loaded in the third but in the fourth inning, fell behind, 2-1, to Nieuwenhuis, who made it a 3-0 game with a solo home run off the batter's eye in center.

NOTES: Brewers OF Domingo Santana was scheduled to begin a three-game minor league rehabilitation assignment Saturday with Class A Wisconsin. Santana has been sidelined since June 8 with a sore right elbow. ... Chicago will activate RHP Joe Nathan from the disabled list Sunday prior to the Cubs' series finale at Milwaukee. Nathan, 41, hasn't pitched since undergoing Tommy John surgery last year. He signed a minor league contract with Chicago in May and has been on a 30-day minor league rehab assignment. ... Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo is batting .328 (22-for-68) with 13 extra-base hits and 14 RBI over his last 17 games.

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