Exactly one month ago the Cubs travelled to Milwaukee riding the momentum of their sweep over the Astros at Wrigley for their first three game winning streak of 2011, but the NL Central leading Brewers snapped manager Mike Quade and the Cubs back to reality by sweeping them out of Miller Park. Since then Chicago started through the first half of August by playing their best baseball of the season, with speed bumps in Houston and against the Braves in Wrigley, leading up to this past weekend’s return trip across the Wisconsin boarder.
Unfortunately for the Cubs and the fans that made the effort to make the short drive up Interstate 94, the Brewers once again showed just how wide the gap is between themselves and the bottom dwellers from Chicago. Even if the Brewers lose Prince Fielder to free agency, and even if it is at the risk of seeing the slugging first baseman join the Cubs, it is the starting pitching rotation Milwaukee has that will continue to give them a leg up over the North Siders for the next couple years unless the Cubs can address their rotation short falls.
On Friday, Randy Wolf gave up a lead off home run to Starlin Castro to start the game and put the Brewers behind 0-2 when Jeff Baker hit a RBI double in the third, but he was pretty much able to coast the rest of the way into the seventh inning. His work in subduing the Cubs bats gave time for the high powered Brewers offense to make up the deficit and then some. Rodrigo Lopez had an average outing, with four walks allowed being an issue, but his defense did not help him either by committing two errors. Jeff Samardzija continues to flash moments of wildness as evidenced by the two walks he gave up, including a lead of walk that came in to make the score 5-2 in favor of the home team.
On Saturday night, the Brew Crew jumped on Ryan Dempster early for five runs, and the Cubs ace only survived through four innings before getting the hook. He was tagged for 20 total bases in that short period of time and was hung with the loss to bring his record down to 10-10. Ramon Ortiz provided some needed long relief with two perfect innings of work despite going on back to back days. On offense it was the Alfonso Soriano show, as he drove in all four Cubs runs. The big blow was a bases clearing double in the eighth to make it 6-4, but Soriano’s teammates left him stranded on second despite having two outs to work with. With the rallying falling short and lights out Brewers closer making quick work in the ninth, the Cubs fell to the Brewers again.
Milwaukee completed the series sweep on Sunday despite a good pitching performance out of Casey Coleman. The kid has shown improvement over his last couple games. Since he is not a power pitcher, Coleman has to rely on hitting his spots, which he did for the most part. Ironically it was not the three walks that he issued that hurt the Cubs starter, but two fairly well placed pitches that solid hitters Ryan Braun and Corey Hart were able to still get good wood on.
The offense put up another late rally fight thanks to a RBI double by Darwin Barney in the eighth and a solo shot by Tyler Colvin in the ninth. The Cubs continued to threaten off closer John Axford with a walk and an error that led to runners at first and second with two outs, but pinch hitter Geo Soto grounded into a force play to end the game.