Gregg, Cubs can't close out Brewers
Harden fans 10, Hill homers, but closer takes blown save
MILWAUKEE -- It wasn't the play at the plate in the ninth inning that had Cubs manager Lou Piniella as mad as Koyie Hill was after Friday's 4-3 loss to the Brewers, but what led up to it.
Chicago had a 3-2 lead going into the ninth and closer Kevin Gregg on the mound. Jason Kendall grounded out, but Gregg (0-1) walked Chris Duffy. It was the fourth walk in the past two-plus innings, and that was one too many.
Duffy scored on Rickie Weeks' double to left to tie the game at 3, and Corey Hart then walked. Ryan Braun hit a possible double-play ball to shortstop Ryan Theriot, who threw home, but Weeks was safe on a walk-off fielder's choice. Game over.
"You can't walk as many people as we did from the seventh inning on," Piniella said. "You can't do it. You're going to lose. Get the ball over the plate and make the other team beat you. Period."
It was the free pass to Duffy that had Piniella fuming. Gregg, who blew his first save opportunity of the season, threw a slider on a 3-2 count to the Brewers outfielder. Hill took the blame.
"That was stupid," Hill said. "I take full responsibility for that. It was the wrong pitch. There's no way to argue it. It was flat-out the wrong pitch. It was a 3-2 slider. There's nothing else you can say about it."
A better option, Hill said, would've been to call a fastball.
"You've got a lead going into the ninth inning and you get one out and nobody on base, you have to be aggressive and go after the guy, 3-2, and force him to beat you," Hill said. "I didn't allow him to do that."
Hill -- starting for the second game in place of catcher Geovany Soto, who is still sidelined with a sore right shoulder -- was upset at home-plate umpire Jim Reynolds' call when Weeks slid home. He slammed the ball down on the dirt and yelled at the umpire.
"That was the wrong way to act about it," Hill said. "I was talking to teammates about that. You get caught up in it sometimes. You wish things had gone a little differently.
"The tape showed he made the right call, and they usually do," Hill said. "A lot of guys get caught up in the heat of the moment and they come back and watch the video and it's a different story. [The umpires] don't get a lot of credit. They're right an awful lot. On my behalf, that's no way to respond to it and I apologize for that."
It was a roller-coaster day for Hill. For six innings, he and Rich Harden were in a groove. Harden struck out 10, his eighth career 10-K game, and Hill helped his pitcher with his first homer, a two-run shot in the sixth that would've been the game-winner.
"Who cares?" Hill said when asked about his homer, his first since July 16, 2007, when he connected off the Giants' Tim Lincecum. "It's all for naught."
Back to the ninth-inning play at home. Did Theriot get set as well as he would like?
"In a perfect world, no," Theriot said. "Looking back at it, maybe if I can get there a step earlier, I can backhand it, maybe. Our thought process before the play was, if you're not 100 percent sure you can turn the double play, get the out at home. I gave it a shot.
"If I had to move more than one step, one or two steps, I was going home," Theriot said. "Ryan runs well, obviously. Rickie runs well, also, so you try to cut that run off."
The Brewers had opened a 2-0 lead on Braun's RBI single in the first and a solo homer by Hart in the third. Milton Bradley collected his first hit and homer with the Cubs leading off the fourth when he hit the first pitch from Milwaukee's Braden Looper over the right-field fence. Bradley's the first player to record a home run with his first hit with the Cubs since Jacque Jones did so in 2006.
Bradley's blast ended his personal 0-for-10 start to the season and made it 2-1. Hill's homer put the Cubs ahead. Then the walks.
Piniella was short-handed with Soto on the bench. Carlos Marmol came on in the seventh and would've stayed in the game to face Prince Fielder in the eighth, but his turn came up in the order in the Cubs' eighth.
"If you don't stop it in the seventh, you don't need a pitcher in the eighth," Piniella said. "As it is, we got out of the eighth well, and got the first out in the ninth and then the walk [to Duffy]. The walk got us in trouble. What are you going to do? And another walk got us in further trouble."
Piniella has zero tolerance for walks.
"It's uncalled for," Gregg said. "We can't be just letting guys on without giving a fighting chance. Unfortunately, that's the way it worked."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.