CHICAGO – Manager Dale Sveum was so sick of watching the Milwaukee Brewers pound the Cubs for nine runs in the ninth inning Monday, he turned to an unlikely player to stop the damage.
Utility man Joe Mather became the first Cubs position player to pitch in a game since Gary Gaetti on July 3, 1999. Mather entered with two outs in the ninth after relievers Lendy Castillo and Alex Hinshaw combined to allow nine earned runs in the Cubs' 15-4 loss.
Mather, who faced two batters and surrendered one hit, sensed Sveum might call on him as the ninth turned ugly. Monday's relief outing was the second of Mather's career, his first appearance since April 17, 2010 with the St. Louis Cardinals. In that outing, he pitched two innings and gave up two runs to take the loss in a 20-inning game.
"Obviously it’s never what you want to do," Mather said. "You don’t want to have to come in and pitch. I know Dale doesn’t want to have somebody come in and throw like that. It’s just an unfortunate thing you have to do and tonight we got out of it pretty quick."
Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart’s back-to-back-to-back homers in the ninth off Hinshaw killed any hopes for a Cubs comeback as Milwaukee cruised to a win. It was the first time the Brewers (59-68) hit three consecutive home runs since 2007.
One week after getting roughed up for seven runs against the Milwaukee Brewers, Monday’s rematch went just as starter Justin Germano hoped through the first four innings. He helped the Cubs jump to a 3-1 lead by allowing one run on six hits, aided by solid defense that turned a double play. Germano fell apart in the fifth, however, and handed back the lead during Milwaukee’s three-run fifth.
Germano (2-4) surrendered a one-out, RBI double to Braun in the fifth which pulled Milwaukee within a run, 3-2. Ramirez delivered the inning’s decisive blow one pitch later, hitting a go-ahead, two-run homer for a 4-3 lead.
"It was kind of the same thing happened a week ago," Sveum said of Germano's performance. "Same result, pitching pretty good and then couldn't get through that middle of the lineup for the third time."
Brett Jackson’s solo home run in the sixth, his fourth of the season, cut the Brewers’ lead back to one run, 5-4. Anthony Rizzo, Alfonso Soriano and Starlin Castro each drove in a run for the Cubs (49-78).
Cubs acquire Recker: The Cubs haven’t shied away from scouring the waiver wire in hopes of adding depth and major league talent.
On Monday, the Cubs traded catcher Blake Lalli to the Oakland Athletics for catcher Anthony Recker, who was optioned to Triple-A Iowa. Recker was designated for assignment by Oakland on Aug. 20.
To create room on the 40-man roster, the Cubs designated left-handed pitcher Scott Maine for assignment.
Recker, 28, hit .265 with seven doubles, nine home runs and 29 RBIs in 52 games for Triple-A Sacramento.
“[Recker is] another catcher that has got some raw power and can receive but throws really well,” Sveum said. “Still at kind of the top of his career right now … he’s just another guy to have in the organization and see what happens.”
Recker is a potential September call up to give the Cubs a third catcher and added flexibility. In 18 big league games spanning the past two seasons, Recker hit .146 with one double. Behind the plate he threw out 29 percent of base runners on steal attempts.
Quick hits: Anthony Rizzo’s nine home runs since his June 26 call up are second most by NL rookies, trailing Cincinnati’s Todd Frazier (11). … Carlos Marmol has converted 15 consecutive save opportunities and is one shy of tying Randy Myers (112 saves) for third most saves in franchise history.