MILWAUKEE – Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum might find all the strikeouts a little easier to take if his team was hitting for more power.
Cubs batters struck out a total of 37 times in a miserable three-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers, including 13 in the 3-2 loss Wednesday that sealed a sweep by the Brewers.
Talk about getting a whiff of something unpleasant.
"We've got to start grinding at-bats and learn how to foul balls off, and get to another count, get to another pitch," Sveum said. "There's just too many uncontested strikeouts. We're not battling and fouling balls off. We've got to get much better at that."
And while the Cubs had a pair of solo home runs from David DeJesus and Bryan LaHair, Sveum noted it wasn't enough.
"Obviously, they go hand in hand — but you've got to have both hands," Sveum said. "You can't have no home runs and a bunch of strikeouts. If you're going to strike out, you better have a slugging percentage, otherwise you're not going to score runs."
One bright spot was Cubs starter Travis Wood (4-10), who took the loss but pitched fairly well, giving up three runs and six hits in seven innings with a walk and six strikeouts.
"He did a good job," Sveum said. "Like I've said before, that's a tough middle of that lineup to get through. Against Corey (Hart), he makes a great pitch and blows his bat up and gets an RBI there. And (Ryan) Braun is the best in baseball. So, just a couple of mistakes. Other than that, he was pretty good."
Wood said he didn't take any consolation in simply keeping his team in the game.
"We've been struggling lately and we played a pretty clean game," Wood said. "Unfortunately we just fell a run short."
Braun hit his NL-leading 34th home run of the season, Yovani Gallardo pitched seven strong innings and John Axford pitched a scoreless ninth to convert his second straight save for Milwaukee. Axford returned to his role as the Brewers' closer after he was demoted earlier in the season.
Gallardo (13-8) gave up two runs and four hits, with nine strikeouts and two walks.
Braun hit a solo shot deep to right-center field in the sixth and had an RBI double in the first. With Wednesday's homer, Braun has surpassed the 33 he hit during his 2011 NL MVP season.
Although the Brewers' overall season has been a disappointment, they've been hot at home, going 9-1-2 in their last 12 series at Miller Park.
Brewers players began Wednesday by saying goodbye to veteran left-hander Randy Wolf, who was released by the team on his 36th birthday.
DeJesus led off by pounding a 3-1 pitch from Gallardo over the wall in center. It was his sixth home run of the season — and four of those have come in his last eight games.
DeJesus then appeared to hurt his left hand in a collision with center fielder Brett Jackson while making a sliding attempt at a catch in the bottom half of the inning, but stayed in the game. Milwaukee's Norichika Aoki ended up with a double after DeJesus and Jackson couldn't make the catch.
After a strikeout by Rickie Weeks, Braun doubled over the head of LaHair — who appeared to lose track of the ball as it came off the bat — and Aoki scored to tie the game. Braun later scored on a broken-bat bloop double by Corey Hart, giving the Brewers a 2-1 lead.
After Braun homered in the sixth, LaHair hit his 15th of the season in the seventh to cut the lead to 3-2.
The Brewers blew a chance to pad their lead in the seventh, when Carlos Gomez tried to score on a ball that got away from catcher Steve Clevenger but was thrown out easily.
Notes: Milwaukee recalled INF Jeff Bianchi from Triple-A Nashville. ... Brewers starter Shaun Marcum is expected to return from a rehabilitation stint and start Saturday's game at Pittsburgh. ... Brewers SS Jean Segura sat out with a sore foot. ... It was the 12th career leadoff home run for DeJesus.