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MIL@CHC: Gonzalez starts a double play in the sixth

CHICAGO -- Zack Greinke had a bad week. First, his agent and the Brewers tabled talks about a contract extension. Then he endured a nightmare of an outing against the Cubs.

Chicago blooped and bounced its way to a six-run third inning on Thursday, and added two more in a fourth inning that included one of the strangest miscues you'll ever see in the Major Leagues. The result for Milwaukee was an 8-0 loss at Wrigley Field that denied the Brewers their first-ever four-game sweep of the Cubs.

In the short term, it was a stinging defeat. In the longer term, the news that negotiations had fizzled earlier in the week was the big story. Greinke is heading toward free agency in October.

"It would have been nice, but I thought it might have been a long shot from the beginning," said Greinke, who will leave future talks to agent Casey Close and Brewers general manager Doug Melvin. "It's up to them now."

With that, the contract portion of the conversation was over. Greinke apologized for not saying more.

On the mound, he faced a tall task on Thursday against Cubs starter Matt Garza, who made sure the Brewers never got into the game by pitching 8 2/3 shutout innings, allowing only three singles.

Garza would have had his first shutout since his July 2010 no-hitter had he not launched a throw into the seats after fielding a grounder with two outs in the ninth inning.

Considering it was Garza's second start, Cubs manager Dale Sveum decided 119 pitches were enough. Reliever Shawn Camp recorded the game's final out.

"Once they got the lead by a sizeable amount, [Garza] was dialed in," Milwaukee center fielder Nyjer Morgan said. "That's the best I've ever seen him. Throwing everything for strikes, and the ones that weren't were nibbling. They were close pitches. He was electric." Morgan entered the day batting .118, but had two of the three Brewers' hits.

Greinke's final line was ugly: Eight runs, all earned, on nine hits in 3 2/3 innings. It was only the second time in the past three-plus seasons that he'd allowed eight earned runs.

It was all the more stunning, considering how Greinke had breezed through his first nine regular season innings. He worked seven shutout innings against the Cardinals five days earlier, with seven strikeouts and no walks. He retired his first six Cubs batters Thursday, before things fell apart in the third inning.

The Cubs did most of their damage with well-placed hits, starting with a double by catcher Steve Clevenger that dropped into shallow left field and bounced past Ryan Braun. Nine men would come to the plate before Greinke escaped, including run-scoring singles from Reed Johnson, Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro, Alfonso Soriano and Ian Stewart.

Soriano dumped a low, outside slider into right field for a broken-bat hit and two runs. Soriano stole second base, and Stewart followed by beating the Brewers' infield shift, bouncing a fastball past the spot where shortstop Alex Gonzalez would typically be stationed. That hit made it 6-0.

"There were a lot of good approaches," Sveum said. "We got a lot of good pitches, we made Greinke get the ball up and took advantages of all the mistakes he made."

Greinke conceded it was not all bad luck.

"The biggest stuff I could complain about was I got to two strikes in a count in my favor and made some bad pitches, early on in the third inning," Greinke said. "After that, I felt I made some decent pitches. Maybe not perfect, but I never made perfect pitches all game.

"To start that inning, I got myself in a bad spot and it kept going from there."

Said manager Ron Roenicke: "Everything fell apart. Everything was placed perfectly."

The Cubs added on in the fourth inning thanks to a tough-luck error charged to Gonzalez. With two outs and a runner at second, Gonzalez made a diving stop of DeJesus' grounder up the middle and fired to first base. Trouble was, new Brewers first baseman Mat Gamel was nowhere near the bag.

"I thought it got through," Gamel said.

So he began moving toward the middle of the diamond, to get into cutoff position. Gonzalez's throw bounced over an empty first base.

DeJesus was credited with an infield single, so the two Cubs runs that scored in the inning were earned against Greinke. The second scored after Greinke had been replaced by reliever Manny Parra.

Asked whether he said anything to Grienke, Gamel responded, "What am I supposed to say?"

This is only Gamel's second professional season at first base, and so far he has been more than competent defensively. Roenicke chalked it up to a learning experience.

"He's been doing such a good job," Roenicke said. "I know, sometimes, things are going to come up. Anytime you change positions, and the guy has had [just] a year to do it, I expect things to happen. You don't want them to, but Mat is playing good here. I know he was upset about it. He's been doing a good job."

In the big picture, it was a solid start to the Brewers' weeklong road trip. They won three of four games against the Cubs and traveled Thursday night to Atlanta, where they will play in the Braves' home opener Friday night. Comments