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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Anthony Rizzo was grateful for Pedro Strop on Friday night. An obscure rule confused Rizzo and cost the Chicago Cubs a run, but the bullpen managed to secure the road win.
Chris Coghlan hit a leadoff homer in the first and Javier Baez had his second career three-hit game, leading the Cubs to a 6-4 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.
The odd play occurred in the eighth inning and resulted in Cubs manager Rick Renteria being ejected.
Second base umpire Jeff Nelson called a balk on Strop, but Carlos Gomez hit the right-hander's pitch on the ground to third.
When Rizzo heard the balk call, he didn't cover first base. Luis Valbuena held the ball at third and Gomez reached on a single.
"I heard balk, and I've never seen that play, not on TV, not ever," Rizzo said. "Thankfully, it didn't cost us the game."
The rulebook essentially gives a batter a free swing in that situation. Usually the ball is dead on a balk, but the rule has one key exception: "Unless the batter reaches first on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batter, or otherwise, and all other runners advance at least one base, in which case the play proceeds without reference to the balk."
Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said his team is taught to swing at all pitches on balk calls.
"As a hitter, if you ever hear a balk, you just swing at wherever the pitch is," he said.
Renteria argued whether Strop had balked and was ejected. The Brewers had runners on the corners and one out, and Rickie Weeks hit a run-scoring groundout to make it 6-4. Ryan Braun then struck out to end the inning.
"We hit pretty well with runners in scoring position, but we just haven't come through the past couple of weeks," Weeks said.
Milwaukee went 2 for 18 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base. Jean Segura went 3 for 4 with his fifth homer.
The Brewers lost for the 24th time in 34 games on a day the team said it would retire uniform No. 1 to honor retiring Commissioner Bud Selig, who bought the Seattle Pilots out of bankruptcy and moved them to Milwaukee in 1970.
Coghlan homered on Jimmy Nelson's second pitch of the game. He also doubled in the third and scored three times.
Neil Ramirez (3-3) pitched a perfect inning for the win and Hector Rondon got three outs for his 28th save in 32 chances.
Nelson (2-9) was charged with five runs and six hits in 4 1-3 innings.
Baez singled in each of his first three plate appearances and drove in two runs. It was his second three-hit performance in 50 games since joining the team on Aug. 5. He also had three hits, including two home runs, in his third game on Aug. 7.
Eric Jokisch pitched four innings for Chicago in his first major league start. He allowed two runs, one earned, and three hits while throwing 86 pitches.
"I was a lot more nervous than I thought I would be," he said.
Nelson was sent to the bullpen in early September but was starting for Matt Garza, who was shut down due to shoulder tightness.
"The command is kind of all over the place," Roenicke said. "Made some great pitches and then all of a sudden, it's high and down the middle."
Brewers: Garza was scratched due to stiffness in his right shoulder. The team said he would have started if the game had any bearing on the team's playoff situation. Garza went 8-8 with a 3.64 ERA in 27 starts in the first year of his four-year, $50 million contract.
Cubs: Tsuyoshi Wada will start for the Cubs in Game 2 of the series. The team scratched Kyle Hendricks for Sunday's final game of the season and said Jacob Turner would start instead. Hendricks has pitched 182 innings between the Cubs and the minor leagues this year and the team said it had nothing to gain by having him pitch the season finale.
Brewers: Wily Peralta, Saturday's scheduled starter, is 16-11 overall, but 0-3 vs. the Cubs this year. Owner Mark Attanasio and general manager Doug Melvin will discuss the club's September collapse before Saturday's game.
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