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Brewers stop five-game slide by spoiling Cubs' home opener

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Associated Press
4/8/2013 6:42:51 PM
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CHICAGO -- Marco Estrada walked out to warm up and saw the wind blowing straight out at Wrigley Field, a rare sight for an April date at the iconic neighbourhood ballpark.

It was an unfortunate development for the right-hander, but he made it work in a big way for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Estrada pitched seven effective innings and doubled home a run Monday, helping the Brewers stop a five-game slide with a 7-4 victory over Chicago in the first game of the season at the Cubs' longtime home.

"I just kept telling myself just leave the pitches down, especially the changeup," he said. "As long as I don't leave balls up, I should be OK. Especially because, you know, I'm a bit of a pop-fly pitcher and I knew in this park with that wind it could be trouble."

Estrada allowed two runs and five hits while bouncing back from a lacklustre season debut against Colorado. The right-hander also drove in Alex Gonzalez with a drive into the gap in right-centre during Milwaukee's two-run seventh.

Norichika Aoki collected three more hits and Ryan Braun had a successful return to the lineup as the Brewers won for the first time since opening day. Aoki had a career-high four hits in Milwaukee's 8-7 loss to Arizona on Sunday and is batting .588 (10 for 17) in his last four games.

"It's just nice to win," Braun said. "We needed to win."

Welington Castillo belted a two-run homer for Chicago, which has dropped four in a row and five of six. Edwin Jackson was hit hard in his first home game since he signed a $52 million, four-year contract over the winter, surrendering five runs and eight hits in six innings.

The Cubs rallied for two runs in the ninth and had the bases loaded when Dave Sappelt struck out. Starlin Castro then hit a fly ball deep to right, but the shifting wind held it up and Aoki brought it in on the warning track.

"Yeah, I had a bad feeling when we got things going there," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "We had nobody out and with those guys coming up, that wind shift was going to obviously have a factor in the game both ways, and it did."

Jim Henderson picked up his first save of the season in his first opportunity since he replaced John Axford in the closer's role.

Braun, who missed Milwaukee's weekend sweep by Arizona due to spasms on the right side of his neck, went 3 for 4 with two doubles before he was replaced by Logan Schafer in the eighth inning. The 2011 NL MVP has at least one hit in each of his four games this season.

It was Braun's first road game since his name surfaced in records from the now-defunct Biogenesis of America LLC clinic alleged to have provided banned substances to several players. After his name was connected to the clinic, he issued a statement in which he said he used the clinic's operator, Anthony Bosch, as a consultant in appealing a positive drug test that was overturned last year.

Braun was lustily booed by the crowd of 40,083, but he is the best player on one of Chicago's division rivals. And the fans hardly seemed to notice he was at the plate after they got done jeering struggling reliever Carlos Marmol when he came on to pitch the eighth.

"Yeah, I don't think they've ever cheered for me here," Braun said with a grin. "Not too much different than it's ever been in the past."

The day began with a tarp over the infield as showers rolled through the area, but the grey clouds soon gave way to sunshine for an unusually warm opener at the 99-year-old ballpark. Hall of Famers Fergie Jenkins and Billy Williams each threw out a ceremonial first pitch, and Ernie Banks led the crowd in the singing of the "Take Me Out to The Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch.

As soon as Jenkins and Williams left the field, the Brewers jumped all over Jackson (0-2).

With runners on first and second and two down, Jonathan Lucroy and Alex Gonzalez had consecutive walks to force home a run. Martin Maldonado then delivered a bases-clearing double into the right-field corner, lifting Milwaukee to a 4-0 lead.

The Brewers added another run in the second when Aoki reached on a leadoff double and scored on Braun's one-out double to centre.

"I just have to do a better job of executing and executing pitches when I put myself in the position to get out of a jam," Jackson said.

That was more than enough for Estrada (1-0), who struck out six and walked one. He was coming off a no-decision against the Rockies, when he allowed four runs and nine hits in five innings.

NOTES: Milwaukee placed LHP Chris Narveson on the 15-day disabled list after the game with a sprained left middle finger. It will make a corresponding roster move on Tuesday and manager Ron Roenicke indicated it would be a position player since the Brewers had 13 pitchers on the roster. ... Roenicke said he hopes the struggling Axford will be able to return to the closer spot at some point. ... Brewers SS Jean Segura was sidelined by a bruised left quadriceps. He is day to day. ... Cubs LHP Travis Wood faces RHP Wily Peralta in the second game of the series on Tuesday night.

Marco Estrada (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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