CHICAGO – It took a while for Kyle Lohse to get comfortable on a cold and soggy day at Wrigley Field. Once he got into a groove, the Milwaukee Brewers were well on their way to another victory.
Lohse pitched seven effective innings for his first win in three weeks, and Milwaukee beat the sloppy Chicago Cubs 4-3 on Friday.
“Kyle was a little bit off those first few innings and then he got it going again late,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “Probably in the last inning had his best stuff and command.”
Lohse allowed three runs and seven hits as NL Central-leading Milwaukee won for the fifth time in six games. He retired his last 13 batters in his first win since April 23 against San Diego, ending a streak of three starts without a decision.
“It was a weird early going for me. I couldn’t get command really much of anything,” Lohse said. “But you’ve been around long enough you figure out how to grind through it and figure out what you need to do physically to get your body in the right spot to make pitches.”
Jean Segura had three hits and two RBIs for Milwaukee, which improved to an NL-best 13-5 on the road. Elian Herrera doubled twice in a spot start in right field for Ryan Braun, who got the day off as he makes his way back from a right oblique strain.
Darwin Barney hit a two-run homer and Junior Lake had a solo shot for the Cubs, who have lost three straight and 10 of 12. Jeff Samardzija lasted five innings after getting off to a slow start, but is winless in his last 15 games dating to last season.
“Obviously, I want to win,” Samardzija said. “Being a starting pitcher, you have a big say as to how the game turns out. Obviously if my record isn’t what I want it to be I need to do a better job.”
Milwaukee jumped on Samardzija for two runs in each of the first two innings, taking advantage of several early miscues by the Cubs.
Segura singled with one out in the first, moved up on a wild pitch and scored on Jonathan Lucroy’s base hit. Lucroy advanced when Lake mishandled his single to left and scored when Lyle Overbay reached on shortstop Starlin Castro’s throwing error.
It was Castro’s second error in three games and No. 7 in 40 games this season. The 24-year-old Castro had a career-low 22 errors in 159 games last season.
Segura added a two-run single in the second as Milwaukee opened a 4-0 lead. Welington Castillo had a costly passed ball that allowed the runners to move up to second and third before Segura hit a liner into center field.
Samardzija (0-4) allowed two earned runs and six hits in his shortest start of the season. His ERA increased from 1.45 to 1.62.
“He didn’t have his best stuff today but he grinded out through five,” manager Rick Renteria said. “We had a couple plays that maybe extended his innings.”
Barney connected in the second and Lake went deep in the third, but that was it for Chicago against Lohse (5-1). The veteran right-hander struck out two and walked one while improving to 6-6 in 21 career starts against the Cubs.
Will Smith tossed a perfect eighth for Milwaukee and Francisco Rodriguez finished for his major league-best 17th save in 18 chances. It was Rodriguez’s first outing since he allowed three runs in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh.
“I was itching to go yesterday. It didn’t work out,” he said. “But as long as I get an opportunity to go out there and pitch, there’s a better chance that I am going to do better than I did three days ago.”
Braun was activated from the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday and played three straight games against the Pirates. Roenicke decided to rest the 2011 NL MVP for the series opener against the lowly Cubs.
Braun, who is batting .316 with six homers and 18 RBIs in 25 games, did not make a rehab start before he rejoined the team.
“You’re going on what the player tells you. If he comes out and feels it again, you’re in trouble,” Roenicke said. “So that’s why we try to take it easy so we’re really protecting ourselves throwing him right out there and something happens and he’s right back on the DL again.”