Cubs' Top Draft Picks Lead The Way Past Brewers

MILWAUKEE – The first-round merry-go-round is off and spinning for the Cubs. Opposing teams are warned to hang on tight, because it may be a dizzying ride.

For the second time in the new season, the Cubs started their first-round draft picks from the years 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Javier Baez, Albert Almora Jr., Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber were all over the place in an 11-6 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. The game was played in front of a Saturday night sellout crowd of 43,080 fans, most of whom were cheering for the Cubs, who improved to 3-2.

Manager Joe Maddon wasn’t aware of the top picks being in the lineup at once, but he didn’t mind benefiting from it.

“I didn’t realize that,” he said. “That’s good scouting and player development right there. And you can talk about how good of players they are, but they are – and you guys know it – great people, too. They fit into the culture so well. They fit into anybody’s culture well. They’re so accountable. And their work is so good every day.”

If you’re wondering where the Cubs’ top pick from 2015 is, Ian Happ is not far away. After a strong spring training with the big league club, he’s off to a good start at Triple-A Iowa, and truth be told, he could start for a lot of major-league clubs.

Here is how it went for the cream of the Cubs’ recent draft classes Saturday:

• Baez scored a pair of runs and went 2 for 4 with two RBIs.

• Almora was 3 for 4 with a walk and two RBIs. He also made a diving backhanded snag of Travis Shaw’s fly ball to end the fifth inning.

• Bryant picked up his first three RBIs of the season. He had a two-run double in the third, a run-scoring single in the fourth and a double leading off the eighth.

• Schwarber doubled and scored in the third.

“As a team, I think that was a great display of some weak hits,” said Bryant, noting infield rollers and bloop hits the Cubs had. “That’s usually how things start going. What did we have, 17 hits? That was really good, so hopefully we can kind of turn the page on this whole opening week and just play our game.”

The Cubs envisioned this flow of talent when they embarked on their rebuilding project in the fall of 2011. Things began coming together in 2015 with a trip to the National League Championship Series, and the first big prize came last year with the World Series championship.

In Saturday's game, the Cubs also featured young players such as homegrown catcher Willson Contreras and young or relatively young standouts acquired from other organizations: Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell and starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks.

It was the first start of the season for Hendricks, the 2016 ERA champion. He righted himself after a leadoff homer to Jonathan Villar in the first followed by a single to Eric Thames and a run-scoring double to Shaw.

"It wasn't the start I was looking for," said Hendricks, who worked six innings, giving up five hits and four runs. "But luckily, we came out swinging it today. Putting up the runs was big. Finding the strike zone wasn't the problem. I was kind of throwing across my body. Things were just kind of off."

The Cubs wiped out that 2-0 deficit in the third on Bryant's double and an RBI forceout by Ben Zobrist. Bryant's single brought another Cubs run home in the fourth before the Brewers tied it at 4-4 in the bottom of the inning on a two-run homer by Nick Franklin. The Cubs broke it open for good late in the game.

• Follow Bruce's Cubs and baseball reports on Twitter @BruceMiles2112.

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