Maldonado delivered three runs with one swing -- a bases-clearing double in the first inning -- as Milwaukee jumped to an early 4-0 lead on Cubs starter Edwin Jackson in front of 40,083 fans on hand for Chicago's home opener. The loss was the fourth straight and fifth in six games for the Cubs. The Brewers had not won since a 5-4, 10-inning victory over Colorado last Monday. Estrada (1-0) had just one challenging inning, giving up two runs in the second on Welington Castillo's one-out home run. Otherwise, the Brewers right-hander had an efficient outing, allowing two runs on five hits while throwing just 100 pitches through seven full innings. He even helped his cause with an RBI double in the seventh as the Brewers opened a 7-2 lead. Jackson (0-2) settled down after a rocky start. He gave up just three hits over his final four innings and struck out the side in the sixth. Jackson gave up five earned runs on eight hits. He struck out three and walked five, including two intentional. The Cubs hit Brewers reliever Brandon Kintzler with one run in the bottom of the ninth. Nate Schierholtz singled home Alfonso Soriano, and Kintzler departed with runners at first and second with none out. Luis Valbuena greeted Milwaukee reliever Jim Henderson with a single that scored Schierholtz. Henderson struck out pinch hitter Steve Clevenger, but Scott Hairston reached on an error to load the bases for center fielder Dave Sappelt. Henderson then struck out Sappelt, and Starlin Castro flied to right to end the game, earn Henderson his first save. The afternoon, which saw sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-60s, was also perfect for a slugfest with powerful crosswinds toward right field. Speeds were clocked at 24 miles per hour from the southwest at game time.
But the Brewers didn't need the long ball as they batted around and rocked Jackson for four runs in the first inning. Ryan Braun, who reached on a one-out single, eventually came home when Jackson walked Alex Gonzalez with the based loaded. The big blow was next when Maldonado launched his bases-clearing double to the right field corner for a 4-0 lead. Jackson struck out Estrada with bases loaded to finally end the inning. Braun, who hit .377 with five homers last year against the Cubs, drove home Norichika Aoki in the second inning with his one-out double to right for a 5-0 lead. The Cubs got two runs back in the second when Castillo slammed a one-out home run to center -- his first of the year -- that also scored Soriano. Castillo took a 3-2 pitch from Estrada and got help from stiff winds as the ball settled in the center field basket. Jackson finally had a one-two-three inning in the third with three groundouts, and the Cubs managed just two more hits through the fifth inning. The Cubs threatened in the sixth with Castro's leadoff double, but he was eventually stranded at third. The Brewers made in 7-2 in the seventh as Shawn Camp loaded the bases and Yuniesky Betancourt's sacrifice fly scored Jonathan Lucroy. Estrada then delivered his double that scored Gonzalez with two out. With runners at first and third in the eighth, Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol worked out a jam by striking out Gonzalez and coaxing Maldonado to pop up. Braun went 3-for-4 with an RBI and run scored while leadoff hitter Aoki was 3-for-4 and reached base five times. Castro, Castillo, Soriano and Schierholtz each had two hits for Chicago. NOTES: After a 2-4 start through a pair of season-opening road series, Cubs manager Dale Sveum hoped for a good start in his team's first home series. "The first game of a series is obviously really important," he said. "A good start is what kind of leads into a lot of things. Winning's contagious." ... Chicago's demotion of Marmol from closer r continues to resonate, but Sveum said he still plans to work the right-hander despite struggles in three previous relief appearances. "He'll work in games where we're behind in the middle of the game where we're behind and build some confidence back up. What he's going to work on is obviously pitch selection ... With third baseman Aramis Ramirez now on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left knee, Milwaukee has both corner infielders out with injuries. First baseman Corey Hart is on the 15-day DL retroactive to March 22. ... The Brewers will play six games in seven days on their first road trip of the season. In addition to three in Chicago, Milwaukee will play three games in St. Louis before returning to Miller Park on April 16 against the Giants.
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- Marco Estrada