Seiya Suzuki’s inside-the-park homer highlights his return to the Chicago Cubs lineup, but they fall to the Milwaukee Brewers in 10 innings



Seiya Suzuki sprinted around the bases at American Family Field.

He planned to keep running until told otherwise.

Chicago Cubs third base coach Willie Harris did not hesitate, emphatically waving him home. Suzuki dodged the Milwaukee Brewers’ relay throw and tag attempt by catcher Victor Caratini as his hand swiped the plate while eluding Caratini’s mitt.

When he saw Caratini move slightly up the third-base line to catch the relay throw, Suzuki did not want to get injured again, particularly in another baserunning situation. His inside-the-park home run in the ninth inning Monday marked a thrilling return to the lineup for Suzuki, who was activated from the injured list before the 5-2, 10-inning loss to the Brewers.

“Great swing,” manager David Ross said. “He was running out of the box; it’s a lot of credit to the trainers and his group that pushed him to be able to be on the back end of a game like that, first game back, and score on an inside-the-parker. It’s pretty impressive.”

Suzuki had not played since suffering a sprained left ring finger May 26. So as he sprinted during the ninth, he had one thought.

“Stop me,” Suzuki joked through interpreter Toy Matsushita. “My legs were getting pretty tired. I was getting ready for somebody to say, ‘Stop.’”

The Cubs, however, wasted Suzuki’s hustle. They were on the verge of pulling out a late victory thanks to the go-ahead inside-the-park homer with one out in the ninth.

Ahead 2-0 in the count against tough Brewers lefty Josh Hader, Suzuki sliced a 95 mph fastball off the left-center-field wall. The ball caromed and rocketed past center fielder Jonathan Davis, allowing Suzuki to scamper around the bases and put the Cubs ahead 2-1.

It’s one of the most exciting and rarest offensive plays in baseball: Suzuki’s inside-the-park homer marked the Cubs’ first since Javier Báez on Aug. 7, 2017, and only their eighth since 2000. It was also only the second game in 28 appearances this season that Hader has given up a home run. The other two homers off Hader came in the same June 7 game.

Suzuki, who also singled in the seventh, missed 35 games because of his injury.

“Obviously my injury prolonged my time out from this team, and I was very frustrated,” he said. “So this game meant a lot to me. I just wanted to get into the game, really excited being able to be back here. The fact that I was able to display what I did today was something that I’m very satisfied with.”

Monday’s performance was an encouraging return for Suzuki after the long layoff. Three rehab games with Triple-A Iowa helped — he went 4-for-9 with a homer, two doubles and three RBIs — but the majors is a different beast, especially for a player who still was adjusting to new pitchers, league and environment before sustaining the injury.

Suzuki’s return gives the Cubs lineup more depth and another balanced hitter. He showed his good approach in the loss. His hard-hit ball (109.9 mph exit velocity) against a tough pitcher like Hader is worth noting as he continues to adjust.

“I did feel some fatigue in the late innings in this game, but I was able to get over and I’m glad I was able to display some good results,” Suzuki said.

Cubs reliever David Robertson couldn’t lock down the bottom of the ninth in one of his worst outings of the season. He struck out three but was hurt by two hits, a hit by pitch and a four-pitch, bases-loaded walk to Christian Yelich to bring home the tying run.

“I felt like I was throwing the ball well, and then I just lost the strike zone for a second,” Robertson said. “I mean, it happens. Threw a lot of curveballs in a row and then could get a fastball in the zone. Just needed to make quality pitches and I wasn’t able to.

“I needed to give Yelich a tough at-bat and instead I gave him a free pass to first and cost us a loss.”

Robertson struck out Wily Adames to force extra innings, but the Cubs failed to take advantage of loading the bases in the 10th. Willson Contreras and Ian Happ struck out to strand the runners. Contreras came out of the game after his at-bat because of left hamstring tightness.

Former Cubs catcher Caratini ended the game with a three-run homer against right-hander Scott Effross.

Left-hander Justin Steele delivered a standout performance in which he appeared to tire near the end of his career-high 108 pitches in 6⅔ innings. He held the Brewers hitless through four innings. They finally tallied a hit on Luis Urias’ well-placed grounder down the first-base line to lead off the fifth.

Steele was one strike from finishing the seventh when the Brewers scored their lone run against him on Pedro Severino’s double that knotted the game at 1. Two walks by Steele sandwiched the tying hit.

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