CHICAGO – The Cubs looked like they could have used a jolt of caffeine Friday at Wrigley Field.
After an emotionally packed series against the St. Louis Cardinals last weekend, the Cubs slogged their way to winning three out of four against the lowly Miami Marlins during the week.
But there was no buzz around the ballpark Friday. Maybe Milwaukee Brewers pitching had something to do with that.
Lefty Gio Gonzalez blanked the Cubs for 52/3 innings, and the Brewers’ bullpen did the rest in a 7-0 victory over the Cubs.
With the win, the Brewers (24-16) moved into a virtual tie for first place with the Cubs (22-14) in the National League Central.
About the most fun Cubs fans had all day was booing Brewers star Ryan Braun, who opened the scoring with a fourth-inning solo homer off Cubs starter Jose Quintana.
Not that Braun minded, of course.
“Just the atmosphere is so much fun,” he said. “Wrigley is always such a special place to play. It’s loud. It’s always packed. It’s energetic. You play in some of these ballparks now with the teams that aren’t competing, and it can be really empty at times. It’s not an enjoyable atmosphere to play in as a competitor. This place is always special. It’s always fun.”
Gonzalez, whom the Brewers signed in late April after he was let go by the Yankees, gave up two hits and lowered his ERA to 2.81 against the Cubs.
“He has been [tough] historically, if you look at the overall numbers,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “He kept us off-balance, made pitches. We had a couple well-contacted balls, but for the most part, not. When Braun hits the homer, OK. [The Cubs’ Anthony] Rizzo hit one equally as well, but it just got held up [by the wind].”
Quintana was good through the first six innings other than Braun’s homer. But a single by Yasmani Grandal, a walk to Braun and a wild pitch by Quintana set up a two-run seventh for the Brewers, and they added two in each of the eighth and ninth.
“It was a battle,” said Quintana, who fell to 4-2 as he gave up four hits and three runs in 62/3 innings. “I executed my pitches. Just one mistake to Braun. I think that’s the only mistake the whole game. “I think the biggest thing in that [seventh] inning was the walk to Aguilar, four straight balls.”
The Cubs probably should get used to this. The top three teams in the Central figure to change spots in the standings, and the Pirates are lurking behind.
“Absolutely,” said Cubs infielder David Bote, who had two of the team’s seven hits. “It’s the best division in baseball. That’s what we play for, play the best and we want to be the best. Lot of games left to play.”