AVAIL­ABLE ON SHORT NO­TICE

FILL-IN MILLS PITCHES FIVE STRONG IN­NINGS BE­FORE RUN­NING INTO TROU­BLE VS. BREWERS

Chicago Sun-Times - - CUBS BEAT - BY RUS­SELL DORSEY | rdorsey@suntimes.com | @RUSS_DORSEY1

The Cubs have been forced to make a few scratches shortly be­fore games re­cently. In­fielder David Bote has got­ten the call a cou­ple of times, and right-han­der Alec Mills was pressed into ser­vice Fri­day against the Brewers.

Mills got the call from man­ager David Ross about two hours be­fore the first pitch af­ter right-han­der Tyler Chat­wood was scratched from his start be­cause of mid-back tight­ness.

It had been 11 days since Mills’ last start against the Roy­als. The only work he had done since then were his nor­mal bullpen ses­sions and five in­nings in a sim­u­lated game while the Cubs were home af­ter their se­ries last week­end against the Car­di­nals was post­poned.

‘‘A cou­ple of hours af­ter I got here, I kinda started fig­ur­ing out it was a pos­si­bil­ity of go­ing to­day,’’ Mills said af­ter the Cubs’ 4-3 loss to the Brewers. ‘‘It had been a while since I had pitched, so I was def­i­nitely ready to go.’’

Mills set­tled in right away, and it looked as though he might be on the verge of some­thing spec­tac­u­lar dur­ing his first four in­nings. He opened the game re­tir­ing the first 12 bat­ters, strik­ing out half of them.

Mills al­lowed one run and three hits through five in­nings. But af­ter a long bot­tom of the fifth — in which the Cubs sent nine men to the plate and scored three runs to take a 3-1 lead — things took a bad turn for Mills in the sixth.

He opened the in­ning by yield­ing a sin­gle to Eric Sog­ard, then hit Ke­ston Hiura to put two run­ners on with no­body out.

Mills then made a mis­take to 2018 Na­tional League MVP Chris­tian Yelich, who sent a first-pitch changeup 413 feet into the right­field bleach­ers. The three-run home run gave the Brewers a 4-3 lead and spoiled what was a valiant ef­fort un­der the cir­cum­stances.

‘‘Just made a mis­take to the best hit­ter in their lineup,’’ Mills said. ‘‘He’s an MVP. Can’t let that hap­pen.’’

Mills fin­ished the game al­low­ing four runs and five hits in six in­nings. He struck out a season-high seven and walked one. It was the first time this season Mills had al­lowed more than three runs or three hits in a game.

‘‘Ob­vi­ously, this one’s frus­trat­ing for as well as I thought I pitched tonight,’’ Mills said. ‘‘Pitched re­ally well for five in­nings. One or two bad pitches in the sixth hurt me bad.’’

The un­cer­tainty of Chat­wood’s back in­jury looms large for the Cubs’ ro­ta­tion be­cause their start­ing-pitch­ing depth has been a con­cern since be­fore spring train­ing.

Mills has been an in­te­gral part of the early suc­cess of the Cubs’ ro­ta­tion and has con­tin­ued to turn heads af­ter a suc­cess­ful 2019, plus a solid spring train­ing and sum­mer camp.

‘‘[Mills] hav­ing such an ease about how he com­petes and his per­son­al­ity made it easy to pull that trig­ger,’’ Ross said of his de­ci­sion to ask Mills to pitch on short no­tice. ‘‘That was a re­ally big start for us and for him. The way he han­dled that just re­ally felt like a vet­eran-type pitcher tonight.’’

Through three starts this season, Mills not only has shown he can han­dle the re­spon­si­bil­ity of be­ing the Cubs’ fifth starter, he also has shown he can help the ro­ta­tion make up for the loss of Chat­wood if he misses time. ✶

‘‘That was a re­ally big start for us and for him. The way he han­dled that just re­ally felt like a vet­eran-type pitcher tonight.’’

man­ager david ross, on Alec mills

NUCCIO DINUZZO/GETTY IM­AGES

Right-han­der Alec Mills started in place of ail­ing Tyler Chat­wood (back tight­ness) on Fri­day against the Brewers and pitched six in­nings.

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