Baseball / Sports

Brewers win with help of Cubs' shoddy defense

CHICAGO -- The Milwaukee Brewers made it look easy Friday against one of the toughest pitchers to score on in the major leagues.

They scored twice in each of the first two innings against Jeff Samardzija, helped by some very shaky Chicago Cubs defense, and held on to post a 4-3 victory on a frigid May afternoon at Wrigley Field.

The Brewers have won five of six and are back to .500 for May at 7-7 -- one more win than they had for the entire month a season ago.

"That was a good one," acknowledged manager Ron Roenicke.

The game-time temperature was just 38 degrees, and a steady rain fell all morning before letting up just before the start. Maybe half of the paid attendance of 35,771 appeared to be on hand.

"Aye-yay-yay," closer Francisco Rodriguez said when asked about the conditions. "You don't really want to go there. It was bad."

The Brewers also were without rightfielder Ryan Braun, who was given the day off, and centerfielder Carlos Gomez, who was serving the final day of his three-game suspension.

Shorthanded as it was, Milwaukee still struck quickly against Samardzija, who entered with a 1.45 earned-run average -- second in the major leagues behind Johnny Cueto's 1.25 for Cincinnati.

Jean Segura singled to center with one out in the first inning, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on a two-out single by Jonathan Lucroy, who worked Samardzija for a 12-pitch at-bat before finally cashing in.

Lucroy went to second on an error by leftfielder Junior Lake, which wound up being key as Lyle Overbay followed with a routine grounder to short only to see Starlin Castro make a poor throw to first.

Lucroy came around to score, and the Brewers took a 2-0 lead.

"Once you put him in the stretch he's a little different pitcher than he is out of the windup," said Lucroy. "I think Seggy getting on base and getting him in the stretch, we were able to get some pitches up in the zone that we could hit. He made some really good pitches to me and I fought them off. I missed a few pretty good pitches to hit, then he threw me one that I was able to get the barrel on.

"It was just a battle."

The Brewers doubled their advantage in the second inning, thanks again in part to some shoddy Cubs defense.

Elian Herrera, starting in right field for Braun, doubled off the wall in right to lead off. After Brewers starter Kyle Lohse popped out on a bunt attempt, Logan Schafer walked and the runners moved up on a passed ball by Welington Castillo.

This time Segura provided the timely hit, singling to center to drive both in and put Milwaukee up, 4-0.

"It was important," Lucroy said of the early offense. "I wish we would have kept it up, but he kind of got settled in and started making pitches down in the zone, and when he starts doing that it's difficult."

Chicago got a pair back in the bottom half of the second when Nate Schierholtz singled and No. 8 hitter Darwin Barney homered. Then in the third, Lake hit a leadoff solo homer to left to pull the Cubs to within 4-3.

Lohse said it wasn't the conditions that affected his early performance as much as a mechanical issue that left him rushing his delivery.

"It was a weird early going for me," he said. "I couldn't get command much of anything, but I've been around long enough that you figure out how to grind through it and figure out what you need to do physically to get your body in the right spot to make pitches.

"That's what it was."

Samardzija settled in, but after throwing so many pitches in the opening two innings lasted only five overall. The four runs he surrendered were a season high and more than he'd allowed in his previous three starts combined.

Lohse, too, rebounded once he was able to slow things down. Beginning with a 4-6-3 double play to end the third, he retired 13 consecutive batters before ending his day after seven innings and 92 pitches.

He allowed seven hits, three runs (earned) and a walk to go along with two strikeouts. He improved to a club-best 5-1 and recorded his seventh consecutive quality start. As a team, the Brewers now have 32 quality starts in 42 games to lead the majors.

"He was good later and we've just got to get him doing that from the first inning," Roenicke said of Lohse. "When he's good, usually the first inning is good."

Four Cubs relievers combined to keep the Brewers off the board the rest of the way. On the other side, Will Smith continued to dominate out of the bullpen with a 1-2-3 eighth inning before Rodriguez was able to get back onto the horse in the ninth.

Having suffered a blown save and a loss earlier in the week, Rodriguez allowed a leadoff single before gaining a feel for the ball and closing the Cubs out. It was his 17th save of the season and 321st of his career, tying him with Jose Mesa for 15th all-time.

"Especially when you had a really bad outing the outing before, it's really, really important to go out and get it done," he said. "I was itching to go yesterday, but it didn't work out.

"As long as I get the opportunity to go out there and pitch, the better the chance that I'm going to do better than I did three days ago."

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