Wood can't contain Brewers in ninth
Closer allows two-run lead to evaporate as Cubs drop series
CHICAGO -- Thursday wasn't the first time Kerry Wood has blown a save, but that didn't make the Cubs' loss to the Milwaukee Brewers any easier to stomach.
Ryan Braun hit a solo homer in the sixth and delivered the knockout punch with a two-run double with one out in the ninth off Wood to spark the Brewers to a 4-3 come-from-behind victory, and take the series.
"It would've been a good game for us to win," Wood said. "We had a chance to win the series. [Carlos Zambrano] pitched great today. We had a chance to score runs. I didn't get it done."
The Cubs led, 3-1, going into the ninth, and Wood was vying for his fifth save. But Wood hit Craig Counsell with his first pitch to start the inning, Gabe Kapler doubled off the left-field wall and Jason Kendall hit an RBI single. Two batters later, Braun doubled off the right-field wall.
Alfonso Soriano was starting in left field, his first game since coming off the disabled list. Could he have caught Kapler's ball?
"I think the wind got the ball," Soriano said. "He didn't hit it good. It was blowing out, but in that inning, it was blowing out a little harder. I think that ball carried a little bit more."
It appeared that Cubs right fielder Kosuke Fukudome might have had a chance on Braun's ball in right.
"I was in position to limit the damage to one run with a sacrifice fly," Fukudome said. "I wasn't playing for a ball that goes over my head."
What did Lou Piniella think? He made a brief appearance in the interview room postgame.
"I don't know," Piniella said about Braun's double. "The ball was hit well. It short-hopped the wall."
And Kapler's ball over Soriano?
"I asked [third-base coach Mike] Quade -- I didn't get a chance to see it," Piniella said. "It was hit in the air, and I don't know what happened. It short-hopped the wall, too."
Asked if he "considered" having Reed Johnson, a more able defensive player, in left instead of Soriano, Piniella snapped.
"You're [darn] right I thought about it," he said. "You think I'm stupid or something? God darn it."
Johnson had started the game in center, but was lifted for Felix Pie in a double-switch in the eighth.
Wood (2-1) took the loss, and now is 4-for-7 in save situations. The Brewers seem to have him figured out. In three games this season, Milwaukee has totaled six runs on six hits over three innings off the right-hander.
"Everybody has as much confidence in [Wood] as anybody on our entire pitching staff," Chicago's Ryan Dempster said. "The way he prepares, he's ready for it as anybody. Sometimes it just doesn't work out, for whatever reason. It's a tough feeling. You feel like you let everybody down, but the bottom line is you gave 100 percent.
"We know he can go out and reel off 20 in a row," Dempster said. "He'll be ready tomorrow, that's the most important part."
Wood seemed most bothered by hitting Counsell to start the ninth.
"I was trying to go in," Wood said. "I didn't make the pitch. It's not a good way to start off -- first pitch of the inning, getting a guy on base, whether you give up a hit or walk him.
"Obviously, Braun hit his ball well," Wood said. "The one to left field, I had two strikes on him, and the ball kept carrying. Again, if I'm not in that situation, it doesn't hurt us bad."
The Cubs closer has to regroup.
"I have to make my pitches," Wood said. "If I make my pitches, I'll be successful more times than not. Obviously, there's days when you don't make pitches you can get away with it, but today wasn't one of those days."
Zambrano helped himself by hitting his 13th career homer and held the Brewers to one run on seven hits, including Braun's homer in the sixth, and two walks over 6 1/3 innings. He had developed a small blister on his right hand and was pulled at the right time, he said. Zambrano now is tied with Ferguson Jenkins for most career home runs by a pitcher in Cubs history. Big Z wasn't pointing any fingers. Neither was anyone else.
"We have a good defense," Zambrano said. "Sometimes you're not perfect and people are going to make errors. You have to go out there as a pitcher and pick your team up. It's the same way if they hit a home run off a pitcher. It's part of the game, there's nothing you can do about it. I know we have a good defense. Things happen -- we're not perfect."
Now, it's on to St. Louis to play a three-game series against the first-place Cardinals.
"You just bounce back," Derrek Lee said. "[The Brewers] are a good team. They beat us today. That's all I can say. They scored three runs in the ninth off a guy with great stuff. You just have to bounce back."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.