CHICAGO (AP) » Addison Russell knew he was coming up in a key situation. His approach exemplified the overflowing confidence engulfing the Chicago Cubs.
Russell’s two-out, two-run triple in the sixth inning snapped a tie and the Cubs held off the Milwaukee Brewers 4-3 on Tuesday night to secure their best 20-game start since 1907.
“It’s fun,” Russell said of the pressure at-bat. “The worst thing you can do is strike out.”
Anthony Rizzo added an RBI single in the seventh and Adam Warren (2-0) struck out three in two scoreless innings as the Cubs improved to 15-5, surpassing the 1969 club’s 14-6 start. The 1907 World Series-winning team began 16-4.
“I think we’re the front-runners right now,” Russell said. “We’re embracing it. We love it.”
Ryan Braun’s pinch-hit, two-run double off Pedro Strop in the eighth got the Brewers within a run. But Hector Rondon pitched a scoreless ninth for his fourth save, getting Aaron Hill to fly deep to left with a runner on to end it.
“He’s been a good guy in these spots lately and almost came up with that one at the end there,” Brewers center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis said. “I think that ball is gone for sure if the wind is not blowing.”
With a 16 mph wind blowing in and the wind chill 34 degrees at first pitch, runs were at a premium. Hill’s fielding error at third to begin the sixth led to two unearned runs off Jimmy Nelson (3-2) in the Brewers’ fourth loss in five games.
Russell’s triple into the left-center gap off Carlos Torres was one of the few balls with enough power to get deep into the outfield. Russell also singled.
“He’s shy, but he’s not shy,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s not afraid of that moment.”
Maddon lifted starter Kyle Hendricks (one run, two hits, 69 pitches) for pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella with runners at second and third and one out in the fifth. La Stella walked, but the Cubs managed only one run on Dexter Fowler’s sacrifice fly to tie it at 1.
Maddon said he made the move simply because of the weather making it so hard to score and praised Hendricks because a lot of guys “would be crying.”
“He didn’t do that for one second,” Maddon added. “He’s a guy that gets it.”
Hill’s sacrifice fly in the second provided Milwaukee’s only run for Nelson, who struck out six through four innings before control problems ended his night with one out and two on in the sixth.
“His pitch count just kind of got up there quick on him, but he did a nice job,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. They got the big two-out hit.”
Braun, booed loudly before pinch-hitting, extended his hitting streak to eight games with a liner to right. He’s 14 for his last 26.
The Cubs started a stretch of 16 of 19 at Wrigley Field, and the weather made for a night of small ball for a team that has won nine games by five runs or more. Hendricks said he “completely understood” Maddon’s decision to remove him.
“We buy in,” Hendricks said. “We’ve got a lot bigger goals than just game by game. It’s going to be a long year.”
Brewers: Braun, who had offseason back surgery, didn’t start as part of Counsell’s plan to limit him to 140 games. . 2B Scooter Gennett was a late scratch with right oblique tightness. Yadiel Rivera replaced him in the field and SS Jonathan Villar hit second in Gennett’s place.
Cubs: C Miguel Montero was scratched from the original lineup with a stiff back. Montero said it was “nothing crazy.”
Cubs ace Jake Arrieta was honored before Chicago’s first home game since his no-hitter last week with a framed jersey and watch. Highlights of the feat at Cincinnati played on the video board and Arrieta, his wife, Brittany, two children and catcher David Ross posed for pictures at home plate.
Arrieta (4-0, 0.87 ERA) looks to become the second player (Cincinnati’s Johnny Vander Meer 1938) to throw consecutive no-hitters when he opposes fellow righty Taylor Jungmann (0-3, 8.47) in the series’ middle game Wednesday night.