AVAILABLE ON SHORT NOTICE
FILL-IN MILLS PITCHES FIVE STRONG INNINGS BEFORE RUNNING INTO TROUBLE VS. BREWERS
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
Right-hander Alec Mills started in place of ailing Tyler Chatwood (back tightness) on Friday against the Brewers and pitched six innings.