CHICAGO (AP)—The Milwaukee Brewers didn’t waste any time getting a new winning streak going.
Milwaukee has won 12 of its last 14 games, improving to 59-76.
“People look at the record we have and I don’t know if they look past us or what,” said Matt Kinney, who won his third straight start. “Our whole thing is we are going to try to win as many games as possible. And if teams want to look by us, then watch out.”
The Cubs insist they’re not overlooking the Brewers—or anyone else, for that matter. They began the day a half-game behind St. Louis and Houston in the NL Central, and with just a month left in the season, every game is critical.
But Chicago starter Shawn Estes has been struggling, and Saturday was no different. The Brewers tagged him for five runs in just two innings, and rolled from there.
Every Milwaukee starter except Wes Helms reached base at least once in the game and scored a run. Kinney (10-9) allowed four earned runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings, and the Milwaukee bullpen held the Cubs to just three hits over the final 3 2-3 innings.
“I let the team down,” Estes said. “We need to win these games. It’s a big time for us, a big time of year, and it’s obviously disappointing.”
Pinch-hitter Troy O’Leary hit a three-run homer in the sixth, but the Cubs couldn’t take advantage of their other opportunities, stranding 10 runners. They left the bases loaded in the seventh, and Kenny Lofton was thrown out at home when he tried to score from first on Sammy Sosa’s double in the eighth.
It was the third loss in four games for the Cubs.
“All day long, we were having trouble getting that two-out knock,” manager Dusty Baker said. “I felt that was the right play, especially with Kenny running.”
Estes (7-11) has lost four of his last five decisions, and has worked into the seventh inning just twice in nine starts.
He got in trouble early against the Brewers and Sexson hit his 36th homer of the year in the first, giving Milwaukee a 2-0 lead.
The Cubs got a run back in the bottom half on Sosa’s sacrifice fly, but Estes’ outing fell apart in the second inning. After striking out Helms, he gave up back-to-back singles to Eddie Perez and Bill Hall. Kinney moved both over with a sacrifice bunt.
Podsednik followed with a blooper into shallow left-center, scoring Perez and Hall. Podsednik then stole second and went to third on a wild pitch by Estes.
Ginter drew a walk and, with Brady Clark at the plate, took a big lead off first. Estes tried to pick him off, but as soon as he turned his back to third, Podsednik took off.
“As I picked up my leg to throw, I heard him step off,” Estes said. “But at that point, I’m kind of helpless.”
“He’s probably a little slower than average going to first,” Podsednik said of Estes. “It gave me an extra step.”
It was the first time a Brewers player has stolen home since Mark Loretta did it in St. Louis on July 28, 1998. It also was the first time an opponent has stolen home against the Cubs since Scott Rolen, then with Philadelphia, did it on June 5, 1997.
Estes finally retired Clark on a groundout to end the inning, and was greeted with a loud chorus of boos as he trudged back to the dugout. When Tony Womack was announced as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the inning, the Wrigley Field crowd of 39,805 cheered.
“They’re going to express disappointment,” Estes said. “I haven’t been the best pitcher this year. … I just happen to be the guy they’re picking on right now, and I just have to deal with it.”
Todd Wellemeyer, recalled from Triple-A Iowa earlier in the day, relieved and didn’t fare much better. Mark Smith hit a solo homer off of him in the third, and the Brewers scored three runs with two outs in the fourth.
“We ran into a hot club,” Baker said. “We’ll get some rest tonight andcome out smoking tomorrow.”
Sexson’s four RBIs gave him 100 for the season, the fourth time in his career he’s reached the century mark. … Estes’ outing was his second-shortest of the year. He lasted an inning against the White Sox in June, giving up six runs. … Lofton was 4-for-5. … Former Marquette star and Chicago native Dwyane Wade threw out the first pitch and sang “Take Me Out to the BallGame.”