Cubs make Brewers feel good again
Sure, the Brewers might not have lived up to a certain level of expectations and fallen out of playoff contention some time ago.
But they are still better than the Cubs, a team that came into the season with a much higher payroll and much, much higher expectations because they were a playoff team in two of the previous three seasons.
Both clubs came into this series on five-game losing streaks, but the Brewers have helped further the Cubs’ dismal season by taking the first two of the set, including a 4-3 win Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.
“It’s been nice the last couple nights,” manager Ken Macha said before later adding, “Nobody likes to be on a losing streak. You come to work and you want to feel optimistic all the time.”
The Cubs might have been happy to see left-hander Chris Narveson starting for the Brewers since he had a 4.50 earned-run average against them in his career and had allowed five runs to them in 51/3 innings this season.
But Narveson offered no comfort this time. He had a solid outing, going 5 2/3 innings and allowing one run on six hits while striking out six.
His biggest jam was in the third inning when, thanks to an error by leftfielder Ryan Braun, the Cubs had runners on the corners with one out. But Narveson got Aramis Ramirez to pop out on the first pitch and struck out Marlon Byrd with a curveball down and inside.
“I was able to execute all my pitches,” Narveson said. “I was able to keep them off-balance and got in when I needed to. I think that third inning was huge. That was a real deciding point for me.”
Because the Cubs traded Ted Lilly to the Los Angeles Dodgers and lost Carlos Silva (cardiac evaluation) to the disabled list, right-hander Thomas Diamond got the start and wasn’t too bad in his major-league debut against a team that had scored 18 runs the previous night.
Thomas handled the assignment well, turning in a quality start with six innings and three runs allowed and 10 strikeouts. But the Brewers got to him enough.
Their offense got going in the first inning after consecutive strikeouts to start the game. Braun, who had three more hits after a five-hit night Monday, drew a walk, and singles by Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee eventually scored him.
Starlin Castro answered for the Cubs with a one-out single and he scored on a single off the wall by Derrek Lee to tie the game after one inning.
The Brewers scored the next three runs on hits by Fielder and Narveson and a sacrifice line drive by McGehee to take a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh.
But Kosuke Fukudome, pinch hitting, got a run back in the bottom of the inning with a solo home run off reliever Todd Coffey.
The tightest spot for the Brewers came in the eighth with a two-run lead and right-hander Kameron Loe on the mound. He allowed singles to Ramirez and Byrd to start the bottom of the inning but escaped by striking out Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto and then getting Blake DeWitt, part of the Lilly trade, to line out.
That wasn’t the last scoring opportunity the Cubs had, since Brewers closer John Axford allowed a leadoff double in the ninth and a one-out single to score a run. Fortunately for Axford, a base-running gaffe by Castro helped him get out of the inning and pick up his 16th save.
This one wasn’t the cakewalk that the first game was, but the Brewers scrapped for runs and put the weekend sweep in Houston in the rearview mirror by winning this series.
“We’ve either been real hot or real cold all year,” Narveson said. “We’re trying to find that consistency and find that easy (way) where we can score five runs and only give up a couple and get on a roll. I think we’re pushing that way and hopefully we find our groove.”