Jameson Taillon wasn’t trying to get amped up before the Cubs’ series opener Monday against the Brewers. But the ball was coming out of his hand a little faster even in warmups.
“I definitely think if I were to look back at the delivery and the speed of everything,” Taillon said after the Cubs’ 6-2 loss, “I would probably come back to you and say I was probably a little amped up subconsciously.”
The feeling was understandable. The Cubs were back at Wrigley Field after a weeklong road trip, playing meaningful games in front of their own fans. And they were hosting the National League Central leaders, who now have a five-game lead.
“I felt super strong today, too,” Taillon said. “And I felt like the delivery was good, stuff was good. I think it was a mix of feeling good, feeding off the situation. And we’re all aware of where we’re at in the standings, where Milwaukee’s at in the standings. So I think it’s probably a little bit of everything.”
The balance between urgency and pressure is delicate.
Last month, the Cubs played well embracing the urgency of the trade deadline, going on an eight-game winning streak that put them solidly in contention. Now, in the stretch run, every series is a balancing act.
But the Brewers are hot. They now own a nine-game winning streak, and their best starting pitchers — Corbin Burnes (9-6, 3.65 ERA) and Brandon Woodruff (3-1, 2.65) — are lined up to face the Cubs on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“The biggest thing for us is just playing our brand of baseball,” Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson said. “Obviously, we didn’t do that tonight. But I know that you know we’re capable of so much more. And we’ll be able to come out tomorrow and play better.”
The Cubs fell behind right away. Taillon gave up two home runs in the first inning, a solo shot to leadoff hitter Christian Yelich and a two-run blast to Mark Canha.
The Cubs, who have one of the best middle-infield duos in the league, committed uncharacteristic errors to fuel the Brewers’ hot start to the game.
Swanson made an errant throw to second base in the first inning to let two runners advance. In the second, second baseman Nico Hoerner tried to throw across his body on a grounder up the middle and threw it past first base. The error eventually led to an unearned run.
“I think they normally make those plays, for sure, but they were difficult plays,” manager David Ross said.
The Brewers’ defense wasn’t giving the Cubs any such breaks. The Cubs managed five hits in the game, including solo homers from Ian Happ and Patrick Wisdom for their only runs.
Taillon settled in after the first two innings, and the defense stepped up. Third baseman Nick Madrigal cut off a grounder to his left and made a spinning throw to first to get Tyrone Taylor in the fourth. In the next inning, Hoerner fielded a grounder from Rowdy Tellez up the middle and made a jump throw to first for the out.
Taillon stretched his start to six innings. The five runs he surrendered all came in the first two innings.
“It’s unfortunate that it takes a four-spot in the first inning to settle down,” Taillon said. “And that puts us in a hole, allows their pitcher to just fill up the zone and work quick and all that. So it’s too bad that that happened early.”