After stern wake-up call, Cubs eye series win vs. Brewers

An irate Justin Steele implored his Chicago Cubs teammates to “wake the (expletive) up” on Saturday after a sloppy defensive third inning.

The Cubs obliged their starting pitcher’s impassioned command, grinding out a 5-3 road win over Milwaukee in an outcome that ended the Brewers’ five-game winning streak.

The potential impact of Steele’s wake-up call will be clearer on Sunday afternoon when Chicago reconvenes with Milwaukee for the rubber match of a three-game series.

Steele’s outburst symbolized the boiling point of two months of frustration for the Cubs, who entered Saturday in last place in the National League Central, having lost 36 of 58 games since April 26 following a 17-9 start.

The left-hander was heated after the Cubs botched a rundown before letting a catchable ball land in center field to help the Brewers tie Saturday’s game at 2-2.

Steele said his displeasure was not meant to be destructive.

“I love every single person in that locker room,” he said. “I know how good we can be. I know what it takes. Yeah, it definitely comes from a good place. It comes from a place of love and passion. I want to win baseball games. That’s what I show up every day to do.”

Chicago left fielder Ian Happ understood Steele’s frustration.

“It’s an intense game,” Happ said. “I think every single guy in this clubhouse is competing and wants to win baseball games every day. And when you’re going through a stretch like we are, that frustration is real. It’s about maintaining a level of focus.”

Happ eased some of the Cubs’ stress on Saturday by hitting what proved to be the game-winning home run, a two-run shot against the struggling Joel Payamps that broke a 3-3 tie in the eighth inning.

Payamps has surrendered five runs over his last six relief outings totaling 4 1/3 innings. Milwaukee manager Pat Murphy, however, was more disappointed with Payamps’ control issues on Saturday than he was about the home run.

“You can’t walk people,” Murphy said. “You’re in the major leagues, and when you’re pitching at that time of the game, walks are not an option. If you look at our pitching staff, a lot of our success has come from not giving up free bases.”

Payamps issued three walks in the eighth inning, including a leadoff free pass to Seiya Suzuki before Happ hit his second game-winning home run in three days.

Happ delivered the decisive two-run shot in the 10th inning of Chicago’s 5-3 road win over the San Francisco Giants on Thursday.

He has homered twice, doubled twice and knocked in four runs in his current four-game hitting streak.

Happ is just 2-for-24 (.083) in his career against the Brewers’ Freddy Peralta (5-4, 4.03 ERA), who will start Sunday’s game against fellow right-hander Kyle Hendricks (1-5, 6.87).

Peralta, 28, made two starts against the Cubs in May, allowing four runs over 10 2/3 innings. He has faced Chicago 17 times (12 starts) in his career, going 5-2 with a 3.34 ERA.

He earned a no-decision last Monday after surrendering two runs across five innings in Milwaukee’s 6-3 home win over the Texas Rangers.

Hendricks pitched seven innings of two-run ball in the Cubs’ 5-1 loss to the Giants on Tuesday.

The 34-year-old is 10-8 with a 3.54 ERA in 36 appearances against the Brewers. Hendricks’ second relief outing against Milwaukee over his 11-year career came on May 29, when he allowed three runs across 3 2/3 innings in his team’s 10-6 loss.

–Field Level Media