MILWAUKEE -- For the second consecutive night, the Brewers offered a microcosm of their season. The starting pitching just wasn't good enough. Braden Looper was knocked around on Monday and Dave Bush suffered a similar fate. Bush surrendered more earned runs -- five -- than he recorded outs -- four -- in a 7-2 loss to the Cubs at Miller Park on Tuesday that left Milwaukee on the brink of elimination. They were pushed over the edge more than an hour later, when the Rockies closed out a win over the Padres in Denver to formally end Milwaukee's bid to repeat as postseason participants.
"We definitely hoped to be in a different spot," Bush said. Bush (5-8) lasted only 1 1/3 innings in his shortest start this season and a drastic turn from his win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field five days earlier. This time he was tagged for six runs, five of them earned, on four hits and four walks, plus a wild pitch in the second inning that plated two Cubs runs. One of those runs was unearned because of an error charged to catcher Jason Kendall, who had hustled to retrieve a Bush offering to Derrek Lee that sailed inside and clanked off the backstop. Lee walked, and that was enough to convince manager Ken Macha to tap a relief corps that covered five innings in relief of Looper and was needed for 7 2/3 more innings on Tuesday. Bush was so, "totally out of sync," according to Macha, that the manager worried his pitcher was hurt. Bush spent about two months on the disabled list this season with a triceps injury. "I stopped by his locker to see if he was OK, and he says he's fine," Macha said. The wild pitch to Lee was particularly alarming. "He missed his mark by three feet," Macha said. Bush reiterated to reporters that he was fine. "I just couldn't get everything to work together," Bush said. "I tried a little bit of everything. I feel fine, it's just that since I've been back I've had some days where I can't get in sync. It's been a difficult process for me to get the consistency back." Macha likened Bush's return after a long layoff to a pitcher trying to find a rhythm in Spring Training. That analogy worked for Bush. "My last few starts, I've felt comfortable, I've felt strong, I've felt smooth. Today, I didn't," Bush said. "It's a step in the wrong direction, I guess." It was a disappointing turn for the worse after three good starts. Bush lost to Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals on Sept. 7, despite allowing only two runs in seven innings, then pitched seven innings again five days later to win in Arizona. He allowed four Cubs runs on Sept. 17 at Wrigley Field but won thanks to Jody Gerut's grand slam. Before that game was over, Bush hustled for a flight home to Maine. The next morning, his wife, Carrie, gave birth to the couple's second child, a son named Jarrett John. Bush returned to the team on Sunday. "It provides a little bit of perspective," Bush said of his busy week off the field. "It's a disappointing effort on my part tonight, but I went home for a good reason for a couple of days and I've got things to think about back home. I have a few starts left and I'll try to make the most of them I can. It's been a difficult season for me. I'd like to finish the season on a high note and have something positive to think about." Lee and Aramis Ramirez drove in two runs apiece for the Cubs, giving Chicago's middle-of-the-order hitters nine total RBIs in the first two games of a series that concludes Wednesday night. The Cubs are on the brink of elimination, too, at least in the NL Central. The Cardinals' magic number to clinch the division dropped to two on Tuesday. "It's kind of a bad atmosphere, being out of it," Lee said. "Thinking back to the last series last year when we had clinched and [the Brewers] were trying to clinch, the crowd was electric, and that's kind of what you hope for in September." Prince Fielder hit his 41st home run and notched his 129th RBI leading off the second inning, but that was all for the Brewers against Cubs starter Randy Wells (11-9), who allowed that lone run on seven hits in six innings to avenge a loss to Bush five days earlier. The Brewers' bullpen spared further embarrassment by holding the Cubs to one run -- on Lee's solo homer in the fourth inning off Chris Smith. But Brewers hitters weren't able to get anything going. "I thought our guys still had good at-bats," Macha said. "We didn't get back into the game ... but I thought their defense played very well." The Brewers face the specter of a Cubs sweep on Wednesday. Entering the series, Milwaukee had won five in a row, the team's longest winning streak since May. "You're feeling confident coming in," Macha said. "But [games] like this, getting down early, it's tough."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.