The Chicago Cubs were greeted by a large contingent of fans Monday on their first trip to the ballpark formerly known as Miller Park.
There’s nothing unusual about that, of course.
Wrigley North has been a destination for Cubs fans since the Milwaukee Brewers first opened the park in 2001, providing the team with a home against their division rival.
“They’re everywhere and they like them some Cubbies,” shortstop Dansby Swanson said.
It was a Chicago-centric crowd again on Monday that saw the Cubs take a six-point lead, only to see it melt away in a devastating 8-6 loss in front of a crowd of 43,209.
“We just didn’t execute the last half of the game well,” Swanson said. “We obviously put ourselves in a good position to win and we weren’t able to add or set up any takedowns enough.
“Certainly not pleasant, but it should be a good learning experience for us.”
The Cubs (38-45) have lost three in a row and seven of their last eight since winning the London Series opener, dropping seven games from first place behind the National League-leading Brewers Central with the Cincinnati Reds.
“We’re better than that and we need to play better,” reliever Michael Fulmer said.
The Cubs may also have lost third baseman Nick Madrigal for a while after retiring in the fourth inning with a right hamstring tightness after tweaking him following a pop-foul. up.
Manager David Ross says Patrick Wisdom may be ready to return from his rehab stint at Triple-A Iowa. And with the All-Star break approaching, there’s no need to rush Madrigal’s return.
Cubs-Brewers games in the North have always seemed like a turning point for one or both teams.
Whenever a new Cubs player experiences their first trip to Milwaukee, they’re somewhat surprised by how many fans have made the trip to I-94. After his first outing with the Cubs in 2018, pitcher Cole Hamels argued it couldn’t really be called a rivalry.
“I know the rivalries I’ve had in the past, you can definitely feel that,” Hamels said. “When you have majority Cubs fans in the stands, I don’t know if it’s a rivalry yet. They’re not going to like me for the commentary, but you can look at the ticket sales.
Ross, who has been saying for three years that no series is more important than another, conceded in advance that this one is important.
“I think we kind of booked this series, because (one where) we have a chance of catching a team ahead of us,” he said. “You always do that in your division.
“Again, we’re not trying to (make) one more important than the other, but that would be fine. We didn’t get that good start after London and we hadn’t played winning baseball neither managed to pick up any home wins.We need to hopefully make up some ground on the road before the All-Star break.
It looked like they were ready to do just that. The Cubs took a 6-0 lead in the third inning, but starter Drew Smyly gave up three runs late in the third and was out with two outs in the fourth.
Smyly said he “was a little erratic,” but aside from giving up a few more hits in the third, he pitched “really well.”
Smyly hasn’t lasted more than four innings in his last two starts and has a 6.49 ERA in his last seven starts since May 28.
Julian Merryweather loaded the bases in the sixth before Ross called in southpaw Anthony Kay to take on pinch hitter Jesse Winker. Brewers manager Craig Counsell fired on Winker for hitting right-hander Jahmai Jones, whose three-point brace down the middle tied the game.
Ross said he wanted to save Mark Leiter Jr. for the final two innings.
“Try my luck with Jones,” he said. “He burned us.
Leiter finally gave up RBI’s single to Willy Adames in the eighth, and the Brewers added an insurance run in the inning.
“Nine free passes, a six-point lead early on,” Ross said. “It just can’t happen. We have to go on strikes, challenge the guys, make them win.
Madrigal said he pulled out of the game because he had been feeling tightness in his calf lately and wanted to “be smart about it”. Designated hitter Christopher Morel moved up to third and Fulmer was inserted in place of Madrigal, the first time a Cubs pitcher has hit since David Robertson on June 22, 2022.
Like Robertson, Fulmer knocked.
The new balanced schedule MLB has implemented this year means Cubs fans only have two road trips to Milwaukee: the four-game series that runs through Thursday and the three-game ending series. in season from September 29 to October 29. 1.
But this streak may not matter if the Cubs don’t wake up the next three days and get back within earshot in the divisional race. They could go from buyers to sellers at the August 1 trade deadline at this rate.
“I hate to say it, but I think these are games to be won,” Fulmer said. “When we have a lead like that, we will have to hold it.”
When asked if these were really ‘win’ games, Swanson replied: “The intensity doesn’t change depending on who you play, what time of year you play. Every moment should be the same. That’s how I feel, at least. »
The Cubs can cite the trip to London, air quality alerts and long rain delays in Chicago last week as obstacles that affected them in their losing streak.
Madrigal did just that and said “everyone feels it a little”. But Swanson said any alleged fatigue factor from those things shouldn’t matter.
“The easy answer we could say is ‘yes,'” he said. “But at the end of the day, it’s the hand that’s dealt to us. Obviously we have to be man-made, basically.
” Nothing changes. Nobody feels bad for us. We should always expect the same things from ourselves.
“We are pros. This is what we do. We just have to find a way.