Milwaukee starter Dave Bush walked home the go-ahead run with two outs in the fourth inning and couldn't pitch through the sixth as the Brewers took a 6-3 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Thursday and missed a chance to sweep the opening series.
Rickie Weeks tied a club record by scoring in his 16th consecutive game, a streak that dates to last season, after colliding with Cubs catcher Geovany Soto in the top of the first inning. As Soto hit the dirt, Tony Gwynn Jr. was able to motor home for a quick 2-0 Brewers lead on Cubs starter Ryan Dempster (1-0), who made his first start in nearly three years and blanked the Brewers after the first.
It was just another hard hit in a hard-fought series that saw seven batters hit by pitches. Weeks was hit twice on Opening Day and Prince Fielder twice in the second game. Cubs second baseman Mark DeRosa was struck by an 0-2 Bush pitch in the decisive fourth inning Thursday and was also hit twice in the series.
Much ado about nothing, several Brewers insisted.
"It's always going to be pretty intense against the Cubs," Weeks said.
"This team is going to take the same approach every time, against any team," catcher Jason Kendall said. "We play hard, and we play the game the right way. That stuff happens."
After the first inning, Dempster hardened, holding Milwaukee scoreless over the next five innings and only once allowing a runner to reach second base. In six innings, the former Cubs closer allowed one earned run on three hits with two walks and five strikeouts. The new Cubs closer, Kerry Wood, blanked the Brewers in the ninth for his first save.
Bush's (0-1) afternoon was not nearly as crisp, as the right-hander allowed six earned runs on six hits and a career-high five walks in 5 1/3 innings. He walked Alfonso Soriano on four pitches with the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth inning, giving the Cubs a 3-2 lead, and fell to 1-6 lifetime against Chicago.
Bush nearly escaped the fourth inning with a 2-2 tie intact. He loaded the bases with no outs on a pair of walks and an 0-2 pitch that got away and struck DeRosa, but he then struck out Felix Pie and got Dempster to whiff on a missed bunt attempt. Bush then walked Soriano on four pitches, the final two of which were close but were called balls by plate umpire Jim Reynolds.
"You like to get calls here and there, but I didn't feel there were any that were badly missed," Bush said.
Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez hit a solo home run off Bush in the fifth inning as Chicago extended the lead, but the walks were most alarming.
"I'm going to give up quite a few hits. That's always the case," said Bush, who has surrendered 424 hits in 401 2/3 innings as a Brewers starter over the last two-plus seasons. "As long as I can limit my walks, I'm all right. When I put guys on base in front of those hits, I make it a lot more difficult for myself."
"I thought Dave Bush did a fairly nice job out there," Yost said. "Career-high five walks -- that's uncharacteristic for him. But it was cold and windy, tough to get a feel for the ball. I thought he did OK."
Yost did point out that the cold -- it was 43 degrees at game time, and the temperature dropped when cloud cover arrived in the middle innings -- did not appear to affect Dempster.
That Dempster helped the Cubs avoid an opening sweep was fitting, since he predicted on the day Cubs pitchers and catchers reported for Spring Training that Chicago was headed for the World Series.
Dempster struck a more conciliatory tone Thursday.
"I think the Brewers are a great team," he said. "I know I said some things earlier in the year, and I stand by them and I mean them, but at the same time, we have a tough division, and those guys are as tough as we'll play all year. ...
"They'll be prepared to play us every time. We have to bring our energy and hustle to every game. When we do that, we feel like we have the team to win. The first couple days they outplayed us, and today we outplayed them."
Chicago avoided what would have been Milwaukee's first series sweep in Chicago since May 2002. Weeks paced the Brewers with two hits and two runs scored, and Fielder drove in a pair of runs in a losing effort.
"It was a pretty good start, but we still have 159 games left," Weeks said. "It feels good to have two games out of that, but we have to keep plugging away."