Schafer nearly hits for cycle; Brewers fall

Schafer nearly hits for cycle; Brewers fall

Schafer nearly hits for cycle; Brewers fall
PHOENIX -- Budding star Starlin Castro homered Saturday for a rare run off a Brewers starting pitcher, and the Cubs won the first 2012 matchup of these National League Central rivals, 6-1, in front of 9,180 fans at Maryvale Baseball Park.

Castro connected on a 2-0 pitch from Chris Narveson in the fourth inning, snapping Narveson's five-inning scoreless streak and marking only the second earned run off a member of Milwaukee's projected starting rotation in 16 Cactus League innings.

Narveson allowed that one run on two hits in 3 2/3 innings. He struck out three.

The Brewers got their run from new shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who homered off Marcus Mateo in the seventh to cut the deficit to 2-1. The Brewers had the tying run at third base in that inning after outfield prospect Logan Schafer tripled, but Mateo struck out Mike Rivera to preserve the Cubs' lead.

Schafer finished a home run shy of hitting for the cycle.

Cubs starter Ryan Dempster was effective, working around three hits and two walks in three scoreless innings. He stranded a runner at third base in the first inning by inducing a double-play grounder from former Chicago teammate Aramis Ramirez, the third baseman who signed a three-year contract with Milwaukee during the offseason. Dempster greeted his old friend with a first pitch that sailed over Ramirez's head.

The Cubs added insurance in the fifth inning with second baseman Darwin Barney's RBI triple, then pulled away in the late innings.

Both teams got quality work from their Major League relievers. Cubs lefty James Russell, a key piece since Sean Marshall was traded to the Reds, struck out Ramirez in a 1-2-3 fourth inning. Brewers closer John Axford struck out two batters in a perfect sixth.

Up next for Brewers: Yovani Gallardo will be back on the mound Sunday to continue his march to a possible Opening Day assignment. He'll face 23-year-old right-hander Alex White and the Rockies in the Brewers' final game before their first Spring Training off-day. Ryan Braun will be back in left field after taking Saturday off. The game, with first pitch at 3:05 p.m. CT, will air via an exclusive webcast on brewers.com.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.