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Crew cold on offense, defense in series finale

MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- Jesus Aguilar's run-scoring error in Sunday's 3-0 loss to the Cubs gave the Brewers 14 errors in 10 games, most in the Majors. They committed 12 errors on the opening homestand alone, including at least one in all seven games. In losing three of four games to the Cubs, the Brewers committed as many errors -- seven -- as they scored runs.

Which brings Brewers manager Craig Counsell to a problem bigger than the defense.

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MILWAUKEE -- Jesus Aguilar's run-scoring error in Sunday's 3-0 loss to the Cubs gave the Brewers 14 errors in 10 games, most in the Majors. They committed 12 errors on the opening homestand alone, including at least one in all seven games. In losing three of four games to the Cubs, the Brewers committed as many errors -- seven -- as they scored runs.

Which brings Brewers manager Craig Counsell to a problem bigger than the defense.

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"We've got to pick it up offensively as much as anything," Counsell said. "This other stuff gets a little magnified, but three shutouts in a seven-game homestand -- that's probably the surprising thing for me."

Video: CHC@MIL: Counsell on offensive struggles

That trio of shutout losses have all come in the Brewers' past five games, opposite Carlos Martinez of the Cardinals and Jon Lester and Jose Quintana of the Cubs. Tough matchups, all, particularly Quintana, who pitched six innings of three-hit ball to improve to 3-1 with a 0.75 ERA in five career starts against the Brewers.

Milwaukee's best chance to break through came in Quintana's final inning, when two batters reached ahead of Ryan Braun and cleanup hitter Aguilar with the Brewers in a 2-0 deficit. Braun scorched a line drive to right field, but it was right at Jason Heyward for the second out. Aguilar, batting with runners at the corners, struck out swinging.

Video: CHC@MIL: Quintana K's Aguilar and escapes a jam

The performance conjured memories of Quintana's complete-game shutout in another Sunday finale of a four-game series against the Cubs last September.

"I don't think we've ever seen him not good," Braun said.

But the Brewers' offensive issues go beyond one tough matchup. While losing five of seven games on the homestand, they were 6-for-40 (.150) with runners in scoring position, including 1-for-19 with eight strikeouts against the Cubs.

The only hit was Orlando Arcia's walk-off single on Friday.

Losing outfielder Christian Yelich didn't help. He missed all four games with a right oblique injury, and landed on the 10-day disabled list Sunday morning.

"We've got to be better or it's going to be a really long season," Braun said. "I think the pitching in our division is far better than I can remember it being at any point in my 12 years now playing in this division.

"Night in and night out, we are facing really good pitchers. So if we don't come and put together quality at-bats, it's going to be a really long year."

Video: CHC@MIL: Anderson discusses his solid six innings

Braun was not excluding himself from that analysis. He has hit two game-winning home runs in the ninth inning, accounting for two of the Brewers' four wins in their final inning at-bat, but is slashing .156/.222/.375 overall after Sunday's 0-for-4.

If there was a bright spot for the Brewers, it was their pitching. Before prospects Taylor Williams and Adrian Houser covered the final three innings, Chase Anderson surrendered a solo home run to Ben Zobrist in the fourth inning and a two-out RBI double to Albert Almora Jr. in the fifth, but limited the damage to those two runs in six innings for Milwaukee's second straight quality start.

Video: CHC@MIL: Houser snags line drive and ends inning

Before Zach Davies and Anderson, the Brewers had not gotten consecutive quality starts since four in a row last Aug. 30-Sept. 2, before Jimmy Nelson's injury forced the team to use "bullpen days" to navigate games.

"We would like to score some more runs. We would like to pitch better. There's definitely some things to work on on both sides of the ball," Anderson said. "But we know what our guys are going to do over the course of six months, and hopefully seven. We just have to keep continuing to build and grind.

"The greatest teams in baseball go through slumps."

Video: CHC@MIL: Arcia scoops to Villar for double play

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Fair pole: The teams were scoreless through three innings for the second straight day before Chicago's Zobrist turned on an inside fastball from Anderson at 90.9 mph -- more than a mph slower than Anderson's average four-seamer -- and sent it off the foul pole in right field for a 1-0 lead. The homer was Zobrist's first this season, and the fourth off Anderson in his 14th inning of the season. Last year, Anderson surrendered 14 home runs in 141 1/3 innings.

"He sees the ball pretty well off me," Anderson said. "Mainly just the fastball. I feel like if I do a better job of locating the offspeed, I have a better chance of being successful [against] him. ... I threw it and I was like, 'That's not where I want to put it.' I threw it right in his sweet spot. If you stay away on him, you'll be more successful that way."

Video: CHC@MIL: Zobrist lines a home run to right field

Crew mistakes pile up: After a pair of errors aided the Cubs' winning rally in the ninth inning of Saturday's game, another miscue burned the Brewers on Sunday. When Aguilar couldn't come up with Tommy La Stella's one-out grounder in the seventh inning, it allowed a run to score for a 3-0 Cubs lead and gave the Brewers a dozen errors in their opening homestand. The Brewers have played one error-free game out of 12 this season -- the finale of an opening series in San Diego.

Video: CHC@MIL: La Stella reaches on an error, drives in run

Missed opportunity: The Brewers were gifted a scoring opportunity in the third inning, when Heyward overran Jonathan Villar's deep fly ball for a leadoff double. Had he been running hard all the way, Villar would have had a triple, Counsell said. Arcia followed with a sharp groundout to shortstop before Anderson was called out on strikes and Lorenzo Cain popped out.

Did it cost the Brewers a run?

"I mean, the situation becomes different," Counsell said. "If you get the same results, yeah, it did cost us a run. But we can't say it cost us a run. We can say he should have been on third base."

QUOTABLE
"You guys have watched the games. We are extremely fortunate to be 5-5." -- Braun, asked whether the Brewers are fortunate to be .500

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Cain singled to open the Brewers' first and one out later, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras tried to throw him out when he took a big lead off first with a throw to first baseman Victor Caratini. Cain was called safe, but the Cubs challenged the ruling. After a review, the call was overturned.

Video: CHC@MIL: Contreras picks off Cain at first base

INJURY UPDATES
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo did not start Sunday for the third straight game, still sidelined by stiffness in his lower back.

The Brewers were without a key performer of their own in Yelich, who tried to avoid the DL by pushing himself in the batting cage on Saturday. When he experienced continued soreness, the Brewers shut him down for the coming week.

WHAT'S NEXT
Jhoulys Chacin wasn't happy with his showing against the Cardinals on Wednesday, when he surrendered six runs (three earned) on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. He gets another crack at the Cards on the road Monday at 6:05 p.m. CT, when the Brewers begin a three-game series at Busch Stadium. "I'm disappointed with my first two starts this year, but I won't put my head down," Chacin said. "I'm going to keep working on my pitches. I have to face the same guys in five days, so I'm going to try to do better."

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Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

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