Chicago, IL – Aramis Ramirez finished 1-for-3 and knocked in two runs in his first game back in Chicago since signing a four-year deal with the Brewers in the offseason, and Milwaukee fought off a late rally from the Cubs to take a 7-5 decision at Wrigley Field on Monday.
Ramirez, who played nine seasons in Chicago, hurt the Cubs early, but almost handed his former club the game late, as his error in the ninth kept the Chicago rally going and allowed the Cubs to score two runs in the frame before closer John Axford shut the door with two big strikeouts to complete the save and leave the bases full of Cubs.
Shaun Marcum (1-0) made the start for the Brewers, allowing three runs on five hits while fanning five over six innings of work. Rickie Weeks belted a solo home run, while Mat Gamel finished with two hits, two runs scored and an RBI as Milwaukee improved to 2-2 after dropping 2-of-3 to the Cardinals to open the season.
"To sit back and bash the ball and try to win games," remarked Brewers head coach Ron Roenicke, "I don't know if we can consistently do that. I think our pitching is going to be great all year and I think our bullpen is going to be great all year."
Milwaukee took the lead for good in the sixth as Shawn Camp (0-1) started the frame in place of starter Chris Volstad. Camp was greeted by Corey Hart, who ripped a single into center field. Gamel followed with a triple, plating Hart, and scored two batters later on a sacrifice fly from Jonathan Lucroy to make it 5-3 Brewers.
Camp allowed three runs on five hits over two innings of work to take the loss and Volstad, who started his first game as a Cub after spending the last four seasons with the Marlins, yielded three runs on five hits over his five innings on the mound. Darwin Barney and Bryan LaHair each added solo shots for the Cubs, who began the season by losing 2-of-3 to the Nationals.
Milwaukee gained ground in the seventh, as Ramirez knocked in Ryan Braun with an RBI double into the gap in left-center field to press the margin to 6-3.
Gamel led off the top of the eighth with a single, stole second, and advanced to third on a fly out from Alex Gonzalez. Carlos Gomez, who entered during a double-switch in the bottom of the seventh, laid a sacrifice bunt down the first-base line to score Gamel and press the margin to 7-3.
In the ninth, Manny Parra issued a lead-off double to Ian Stewart before Tim Dillard entered and walked the only batter he faced to put runners on first and third with one out before Axford entered. Despite errors from Ramirez and Gomez, Axford was able to end the comeback bid by punching out David DeJesus and Starlin Castro around a walk to Darwin Barney that loaded the bases.
The Brewers struck first in the top of the first frame, as Morgan singled and Ryan Braun doubled to put runners on second and third before Ramirez lifted a sacrifice fly to right field to score Morgan and give Milwaukee the 1-0 edge.
The Cubs jumped in front with the long ball as Barney's homer tied the game at 1-1 in the first and LaHair's blast in the second put the Cubs on top 2-1.
Rickie Weeks answered with a solo shot in the third to knot the game at 2-2 before Milwaukee added another run in the fourth. Gonzalez led off with a double before advancing to third on a groundout. Marcum then helped his own cause, executing a perfect suicide squeeze to score Gonzalez and restore a one-run edge for the visitors.
The Cubs got one back in the fifth after Soto hit a rare triple on a fly ball that Morgan lost in the twilight. Blake DeWitt then plated Soto on a sacrifice fly to right-center field, tying the game at 3-3.
Dale Sveum is in his first year as Chicago's manager, after spending six years in Milwaukee as a player and six more as a coach...Ramirez hit 239 home runs during his nine seasons in Chicago...Milwaukee went 10-6 against the Cubs last season.