MILWAUKEE – Kevin Gregg has provided some much needed stability to the ninth inning for the Chicago Cubs. However, picking up his 12th save in as many opportunities this season wasn’t the cake walk the previous 11 had been.
Gregg came into the ninth with the Cubs clinging to a 5-3 lead and started off the inning by allowing a solo home run to Juan Francisco. It was the first run Gregg had allowed in a save opportunity this season.
“We’re up two, you gotta attack the strike zone,” Gregg said. “(Francisco’s) gotta do a lot of things right to hit that ball out and he did. Then you buckle down.”
Rickie Weeks followed Francisco’s home run with a double and the Brewers had the tying run on second base and nobody out. Logan Shafer bunted Weeks to third, but Weeks was thrown out at home by Luis Valbuena on Yuniesky Betancourt’s ground ball to third. Scooter Gennett ended the game with a deep fly ball to right that nearly left the ball park.
With the first two men of the inning reaching, manager Dale Sveum was glad the Brewers decided to take the safe route by playing for one run and handing the Cubs an easy first out. Gregg shared his manager’s sentiments.
“I don’t mind. Anytime they give me an out it’s closer to finishing the game,” Gregg said. “The bottom line is, if we win by one every time, great, we win. That’s the bottom line as a closer -- yeah you don’t want to give up any runs, but you want to win. That’s the first and foremost thing when you go out there.”
Starter Scott Feldman, who allowed three runs in six innings, was thrilled Gregg could nail down the victory for him and pointed out that Gregg adds value to the team with more than just his on-field performance.
“Pretty fortunate to have him,” Feldman said. “He brings a lot of stability to the back end of the bullpen. Also just having a veteran like that’s been through so much adversity and overcome it, having one of the better seasons of his career right now. You can learn a lot from guys like that.”
Sveum added he may need to improve his grooming techniques to ensure that people don’t see the toll that playing such hand-wringers has on him.
“I have to start shaving my head and face completely so you can’t see all the gray,” Sveum said with a laugh.
By designating the highly combustible Carlos Marmol for assignment on Tuesday, the Cubs shed one of the more stress-inducing pieces from their bullpen. Gregg has proven to be one of the few players who rarely causes Sveum any undue anxiety this season.
“You have a calm because you know he’s not going to implode with walks,” Sveum said. “They’re going to have to get their hits to beat him. The times he’s given up a run, they’ve hit the ball, he hasn’t walked guys or those kind of things. He knows if he throws strikes, they gotta get hits to beat him. We’ve seen many closers over the years do a nice job just because they don’t walk anybody.”