MILWAUKEE -- The Cubs' Mike Montgomery didn't get any help on Wednesday afternoon, unless you count the two relievers who subbed in the outfield briefly in the eighth inning.Lorenzo Cain hit a solo homer, one of just two hits off Montgomery over six innings, which was all the Brewers needed
MILWAUKEE -- The Cubs' Mike Montgomery didn't get any help on Wednesday afternoon, unless you count the two relievers who subbed in the outfield briefly in the eighth inning.
Lorenzo Cain hit a solo homer, one of just two hits off Montgomery over six innings, which was all the Brewers needed to hand the Cubs a 1-0 loss at Miller Park and open a 1 1/2-game lead in the National League Central.
"It should be like this all year because they have a good team, they have a good group," Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said of the tight division race.
The Cubs scored five runs in the 11th inning on Monday to win the series opener and move into first place for the first time since May 1, but then they were shut out both Tuesday and Wednesday by their rivals. Jhoulys Chacin scattered four hits over six innings for the win on Wednesday, which was Milwaukee's third in 11 games this season against Chicago.
"We played well the first game, and we only had two runs up until the ninth inning, then shutout, shutout," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We almost should be grateful we won one out of three."
The Brewers stranded a runner at third in the first two innings, but Cain figured out a way to score with one out in the third. He launched a 3-1 fastball from Montgomery for his eighth home run and a 1-0 lead.
"I liked him in Kansas City, always liked him," Maddon said of Cain. "Citizen Cain. Outstanding player. Plays it hard, plays it right. Works pro at-bats all the time. He's a high-end baseball player. I've always been a big fan."
Montgomery likes Cain, too, but he didn't like the result.
"I went inside one too many times to Cain and he got me," Montgomery said. "He's a good hitter, so I have to give him credit for that. … To him, especially, you want to get him out earlier [in the count] and want to get ahead. It is what it is."
Besides the homer, Montgomery gave up a leadoff single to Cain in the first and that was it. This was Montgomery's fourth start subbing for Yu Darvish, and the lefty continued to do well. He has now given up three earned runs over 23 2/3 innings, for a 1.14 ERA as a starter this season.
"I've got a lot of confidence," Montgomery said. "I know if I go out there and execute the game plan and stay within myself, good things happen. I've always known that. I have a good feel for my pitches right now. It's about just going out there and trying to get the job done. I've been around and I know what it takes to be good, and it's just about going out there and doing it."
Darvish, whose last start was on May 20, threw his first bullpen session on Tuesday, but there's still no timetable for his return.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Jason Heyward made the catch of the game in the Brewers' second. With one out, Hernan Perez struck out, but the ball got away from catcher Chris Gimenez, who made matters worse by overthrowing Rizzo. Perez reached second on the error. Perez then stole third, and Erik Kratz flew out to shallow right with Heyward making a diving catch. Heyward was able to get to his feet and throw home to stop Perez from trying to score.
The last time the Cubs were shut out in back-to-back games was April 1-2, when they lost to the Marlins, 6-0, then dropped a 1-0 decision to the Reds.
Montgomery joins Jason Hammel (four starts in 2016), Rich Harden (four starts in '08) and Greg Maddux (four starts in '06) as the only Cubs pitchers in the past four decades to hold opponents to one or no runs in each of their first four starts of a season.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Right-hander Steve Cishek started the Brewers' eighth and gave up a single to Orlando Arcia. Then it got interesting. Maddon moved Cishek to left field, and Brian Duensing, a lefty, took over on the mound. Duensing struck out pinch-hitter Eric Thames, then switched places with Cishek, moving to left. Cishek got Cain to ground out, and Maddon made another move, calling on catcher Willson Contreras to play left and putting Duensing back on the mound. Naturally, Christian Yelich flew out to Contreras to end the inning.
It marked the first career appearance for both Cishek and Duensing at a defensive position other than pitcher.
"We want to win the ballgame, win the series, but at the end of the day, it's one game," Cishek said. "This rarely happens. I'll joke around about it for a while and have fun with it."
Did Duensing think he could've made the play like Contreras did?
"I'd like to say 'yes,' but at the same time, I don't know what would've happened," Duensing said. "I'm going to say, yes."
Other Cubs pitchers who have played the outfield in the past for Maddon include Travis Wood, Pedro Strop and Spencer Patton.
HE SAID IT
"We get guys out there, but [we need to be] more consistent driving in a run when he's out there. Every team laments the same situation. It's where we're at in the industry, it's an all-or-nothing approach by a lot of guys. We're trying to nurture a different method where you can score runs with singles and not just homers. We're working on it, and it showed up a couple times recently. Today, it did not happen. I think that's the missing link. Everybody is wanting more action in the game. We have to develop guys who are able to move the baseball and not just swing for the fences." -- Maddon, on the Cubs' struggles with runners in scoring position. They stranded nine on Wednesday and went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position.
After an off-day on Thursday, the Cubs open a three-game series against the Cardinals in St. Louis on Friday night. Jonathan Lester will get the start against Michael Wacha, and Lester is on a roll. He has not given up a run in his past two outings, going seven innings both times. He's 5-1 with a 1.63 ERA in his past eight starts. He's 1-0 in two starts vs. the Cards, giving up two earned runs over 11 1/3 innings. First pitch will be at 7:15 p.m. CT from Busch Stadium.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.