Estrada, Brewers top Cubs in Chicago

Jack McCarthy, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- Milwaukee Brewers right hander Marco Estrada knew Wrigley Field's tricky winds -- whichever way they blew -- would be a challenge Monday.
But Estrada still managed an efficient seven innings as Milwaukee snapped a five-game losing streak with a 7-4 victory over the Cubs in front of 40,083 fans on hand for Chicago's home opener.
"When I went out just to check the temperature I saw the flags blowing in," Estrada said. "Then when walked out to start warming up, I saw them blowing straight out. I kept telling myself to keep the pitches down, especially the change up. As long as I don't leave balls up, I should be okay."
Estrada (1-0) scattered five hits, struckout six and walked one while throwing 100 pitches. His only runs came from Welington Castillo's second inning two-run homer.
The Cubs scored twice in a nerve-wracking ninth and had the potential winning run at the plate. But reliever Jim Henderson closed the door as Starlin Castro flied out to deep right to end the game.
"With the wind blowing today I wasn't sure where the flags were going at that point," Henderson said. "It was either going to be way out or in Nori (Aoki's) glove."
By that point the wind was blowing in and Aoki made the catch near the right field warning track.
Martin Maldonado went 3-for-5 with three RBIs for the winners, including a bases-clearing double in the first inning, as Milwaukee jumped to an early 4-0 lead on Cubs' starter Edwin Jackson.
The loss was the fourth straight and fifth in six games for Chicago. Milwaukee had not won since a 5-4, 10-inning victory over Colorado on April 1.
"I'm not too concerned about streaks," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "I just want to play good baseball. And that's why I don't look at how many games we've lost in a row. I look at how we're playing at the time ... My thinking it we need to play good baseball and we hadn't been."
Estrada (1-0) surrendered a two-run home run to Castillo on a 3-2 pitch in the second. But otherwise the Cubs couldn't figure him out.
"Castillo put a nice swing on the ball," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "But other than that we didn't hit enough balls hard enough off Estrada.
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 no outs.
Luis Valbuena greeted 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 ignored an increasingly vocal crowd to strike out Sappelt, and Starlin Castro flied to right to end the game, earning Henderson his first save.
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 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 Aoki was 3-for-4 and reached base five times.
Castro, Castillo, Soriano and Schierholtz each had two hits for Chicago.
Castillo's home run was just the Cubs' sixth of the season as production near the top of the order remains inconsistent.
"Nobody's pressing right now, it's just a matter of getting everybody together," Sveum said. "(Anthony) Rizzo's hit a couple of home runs but our four hitter (Soriano) doesn't have an RBI yet, not that he's swinging horrible, but we're not getting RBIs out of those spots."
NOTES: After a 2-4 start through a pair of season-opening road series, 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 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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