Maholm struggles as Cubs lose to Brewers
CHICAGO – Paul Maholm's first inning with the Chicago Cubs looked more like an extended batting practice session for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Maholm surrendered five runs in the first, including Alex Gonzalez's three-run homer, and the Cubs went on to a 7-4 loss on Tuesday night.
The Brewers had no problem adjusting to the weather and the wind blowing in on the chilly 40-degree evening. They sent 10 batters to the plate in the first against Maholm (0-1).
"It was a bad inning. I didn't throw like I normally throw," Maholm said. "I don't know if it was my first game and I just tried to different things, but I didn't establish my sinker. I didn't do what I normally do."
Chris Narveson (1-0) pitched five innings to improve to 7-1 with a 3.52 ERA in 14 career games against Chicago. The left-hander allowed three runs, two earned, and six hits.
Marco Estrada and Kameron Loe combined for three scoreless innings after Narveson left. Jose Veras came in to pitch the ninth, but Geovany Soto hit a leadoff homer and Bryan LaHair walked with one out, prompting Brewers manager Ron Roenicke to go to his bullpen again.
Francisco Rodriguez then struck out David DeJesus and got Darwin Barney to ground out for his first save of the season.
Maholm's outing ended after four innings. He allowed six runs and six hits.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum thought Maholm had trouble gripping the ball for his breaking pitches in the dry, cold weather.
"I think the way Paul pitches, not using it as an excuse but I think the weather has something to do with his feel for the breaking ball," Sveum said. "I think he settled down and did OK after that first inning, but I think it takes a little while to sometimes get a feel in the cold."
Rickie Weeks led off the game with a walk and moved to third on Carlos Gomez's double. Ryan Braun then hit a sacrifice fly, putting Milwaukee in front and moving the speedy Gomez to third.
Aramis Ramirez followed with a bouncer to first baseman Jeff Baker, who was playing near the infield grass and decided to throw home. Gomez was running on contact and scored to make it 2-0.
After Maholm hit Corey Hart, Gonzalez hit a drive to left for his first homer of the season.
"It was pretty good," Roenicke said. "If that wind's not blowing in, it could have been really good. Braun absolutely killed that ball. Then Rami turns around and smokes one, also. But that's Wrigley Field. These guys talk about how a lot of the times you pitch to the elements. We still did a nice job."
Jonathan Lucroy hit solo drive off Maholm in the third for his first homer and had an RBI single in the seventh.
"I thought the wind was blowing in," Maholm joked. "Honestly, the pitches they hit out were brutal. The pitch that Gonzalez hit out was just a bad cutter so it pretty much turns into a BP fastball. The pitch that Lucroy hit out was a pitch that cut right back to his bat so it was almost the same, another BP fastball."
Maholm is 1-9 in his last 17 starts against the Brewers. The Pirates declined an option on Maholm, who went 6-14 with a 3.66 ERA in 2011, but 0-5 with a 5.75 ERA over his final seven outings. He agreed to a one-year, $4.25 million contract with Chicago in January.
Chicago scored three times in the third to cut Milwaukee's lead to 6-3. Alfonso Soriano had a two-run single and Baker added a sacrifice fly.
The Cubs had a chance for more but second baseman Weeks made a diving stop to rob Soto of a hit and end the inning.
"It was a huge play," Narveson said. "The shift has always been a big help for us. I remember the first time facing Soto last year when he hit a ball up the middle, Ricky was standing right there, so I kind of remembered that. Not that you're expecting him to get it, but you at least think he might have a play at it."
NOTES: Ramirez stole second in the first inning. He had one stolen base for the Cubs in 2011. ... Brewers RF Corey Hart is expected to rest on Wednesday. He had right knee surgery in March.