MILWAUKEE (AP) — Corbin Burnes continued his sizzling start to the season and finally got a little run support, thanks in part to his own surprising skill at the plate.
Burnes struck out 10 in six dominant innings and also delivered a bases-loaded single for his first two career RBIs as the Milwaukee Brewers defeated the Chicago Cubs 7-0 on Wednesday.
The 26-year-old right-hander has knocked home twice as many runs (two) as he has allowed (one) through his first three outings of the year.
“That’s the best guy we’ve faced all year there today,” Cubs manager David Ross said.
Burnes (1-1) has 30 strikeouts while allowing only four hits and no walks in 18 1/3 innings. He gave up two hits Wednesday.
He was asked after the game if this is the most fun he’s ever had pitching.
“Yeah, I’d say so,” replied Burnes, who finished sixth in the NL Cy Young Award voting last year. “Last year was pretty awesome, too. I think it makes it a little bit sweeter this year having some fans in the stands and having the fans in the ballpark to enjoy it with us.”
This marked the franchise-record eighth straight game in which a Brewers starter worked at least five innings while allowing no more than one run.
Burnes’ performance helped the Brewers take two of three in the series and gain a measure of revenge one day after an emotionally charged 3-2 loss to the Cubs.
Milwaukee had given up a go-ahead, two-run homer to Willson Contreras on Tuesday after hitting him with a pitch earlier in the game. Cubs reliever Ryan Tepera threw a pitch behind Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff, who had thrown the pitch that hit Contreras.
Wednesday’s game saw no trouble in response. Milwaukee’s Keston Hiura was hit by a pitch in the fourth inning, without incident.
The Cubs had no answers for Burnes, who finally got a win to reward his brilliant work. Burnes yielded just one hit in each of his first two starts, but the Brewers lost both games.
Although Burnes carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning April 3 against Minnesota, the Brewers mustered just one hit and struck out 17 times in a 2-0 loss to the Twins. Burnes left with a 1-0 lead Thursday at St. Louis, but the Cardinals rallied against Milwaukee’s bullpen to win 3-1.
Burnes got more help Wednesday.
Travis Shaw scored one of Milwaukee’s two runs in the first inning and delivered a solo shot in the third off Jake Arrieta (2-1), who struck out five and gave up three runs in five innings.
“Whenever you get a lead to go out and start the game early on, it makes it a lot easier on us on the mound to go out and just fill the strike zone and force some contact early,” Burnes said. “It definitely makes it a little easier to pitch.”
The Brewers broke the game open in the sixth as reliever Shelby Miller didn’t retire any of the five batters he faced. That four-run outburst in the sixth included Burnes’ bases-loaded single up the middle off Justin Steele.
Burnes said he and the other Brewers pitchers often tell bench coach Pat Murphy how well they all can hit.
This time, Burnes showed Murphy he could back up that big talk.
“He just told me, ‘Take it easy, I know you got a hit but you’re still a pitcher,’ ” Burnes said.
Cubs: RHP Kyle Hendricks was back in Chicago on Wednesday, one day after getting scratched from his scheduled start because he wasn’t feeling well. Ross said Tuesday that Hendricks tested negative for COVID-19 and none of his players have tested positive, but the Cubs are being cautious after bullpen coach Chris Young and first base coach Craig Driver both had positives tests.
“It feels like every day is sort of a new challenge with this,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said. “How to distinguish what is seasonal allergies versus what is COVID symptoms, there’s no way to know, and I think because we have those two coaches who are positive, we have to act in a certain fashion.”
The Cubs activated C Austin Romine from the injured list, activated RHP Jason Adam off the COVID-19-related injured list and selected Miller from their alternate site in South Bend, Indiana. They designated C Tony Wolters for assignment and optioned RHP Adbert Alzolay and RHP Brad Wieck to the alternate site.
Brewers: OF Lorenzo Cain went on the 10-day injured list with a strained left quadriceps, and OF Christian Yelich missed a third straight game with a sore back. The Brewers recalled OF Tyrone Taylor.
The Cubs have Thursday off before opening a home series with Atlanta on Friday.
The Brewers are off Thursday before beginning a three-game home series with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday.