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MILWAUKEE (AP) – Prince Fielder hit his 23rd home run and Rickie Weeks needed to be helped off the field when he injured his left ankle running out a throw to first in the Milwaukee Brewers’ 2-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night.
Zack Greinke (8-4) worked effectively into the seventh inning as Milwaukee kept pace in the crowded NL Central, but losing Weeks would be a huge blow to the Brewers’ playoff chances.
Fielder homered off Carlos Zambrano (7-6) to start the second before Weeks hit a bouncing ball to shortstop Starlin Castro. Weeks stretched to beat the throw, landing awkwardly at the bag and stumbling down the first-base line.
The All-Star second baseman went to the hospital for further tests after being helped off the field.
Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said during the game that initial X-rays showed Weeks’ ankle wasn’t broken, but Weeks was not putting weight on the leg after his foot appeared to slip off the side of the bag and turned inward. He was helped off the field by manager Ron Roenicke and assistant trainer Dan Wright.
General manager Doug Melvin had already been looking for middle infielders to help shore up depth, but this injury may hasten Milwaukee’s need to make a deal before Sunday’s non-waiver trade deadline.
“Doug and I have both been committed to do anything to improve this team,” Attanasio said. “What that means after tonight may have changed.”
Weeks was hitting .272 with 19 homers and 43 RBIs in 104 games in the first season of a $38.5 million, four-year deal.
“He’s not replaceable,” Attanasio said.
Weeks’ injury overshadowed the pitching duel that developed between Zambrano and Greinke as well as John Axford converting his franchise record 26th consecutive save.
Zambrano, the subject of trade rumors himself, had been 7-0 with a 2.40 ERA in his previous eight starts at Miller Park, which included his no-hitter against the Astros when Houston was forced to relocate two games in 2008 due to Hurricane Ike.
But Zambrano left one pitch hanging to Fielder, who hit his first homer since his three-run shot for the National League in the All-Star game. Fielder had been slumping with only three extra-base hits in his previous 57 at-bats before the homer..
After Craig Counsell replaced Weeks, Casey McGehee doubled and Yuniesky Betancourt hit a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0.
Greinke struck out nine and left with two outs in the seventh after walking Blake DeWitt. Reliever Takashi Saito got Darwin Barney to ground out to end the inning. Francisco Rodriguez pitched the eighth, allowing a warning-track fly ball from Aramis Ramirez that would have tied the game if it had been hit about 3 feet farther.
Axford worked a perfect ninth to end it and surpass Doug Jones’ 1997 mark of 25 consecutive saves for the Brewers.
NOTES: Axford has converted 29 of 31 save chances this year. … Chicago only had one runner in scoring position when Marlon Byrd doubled with two outs in the fourth. … Fielder is the only player in the majors to start every game this season after Florida’s Gaby Sanchez didn’t play against Washington on Tuesday night. Fielder has missed only one game over the last three seasons when he was ill. … The Brewers sent C Wil Nieves to Atlanta for cash. The Braves will pick up the rest of what’s owed on Nieves’ $775,000, one-year contract.