Manager Dusty Baker summed up the feeling of thousands of Cubs fans Wednesday night at Miller Park.
"Dang," Baker said. "That was tough to swallow, especially when we kept fighting back and fighting back."
Pinch-hitter Jeff Cirillo ended the 3½-hour fight when his two-out ninth inning single drove home the winning run in the Brewers' 7-6 victory before a crowd of 30,049.
Exciting baseball, both good and bad, spiced the final innings. Aided by second baseman Rickie Weeks' second error of the night, the Cubs scored two runs on RBI hits by Derrek Lee and Jeromy Burnitz to tie it 6-6 in the ninth.
Bill Hall's two-out, two-run, bases-loaded single off Roberto Nova, the Cubs' third pitcher in the seventh, gave Milwaukee a 5-4 lead.
Brewers center fielder Brady Clark had four hits, including a two-run homer. J.J. Hardy's squeeze bunt scored a run for a 6-4 lead in the bottom of the eighth.
The victory before 30,049 fans, pulled the Brewers to within one game of .500 and dropped the fourth place Cubs to 74-78.
Cubs starter Mark Prior rued one the 120 pitches he threw in his three-run 10-strikeout six innings. It was the fourth inning pitch that Brewer center fielder Clark smashed for a two-run homer, one of his four hits.
"A hanging curve. I screwed up on it," said Prior. "Otherwise, I threw well. I was down in the zone."
Baker's fond pre-game hope was that Prior would retire the Brewers 1-2-3 in the first two innings. Dusty didn't want thoughts of Mark's recent early-game troubles to creep into his head."
"Things like this can get in a pitcher's head and stay there," said Baker. "It stayed in Tom Glavine's head for years and years..."
Dusty's hope lasted exactly one pitch.
Clark lined Prior's first pitch of the night for a single to left. After J.J. Hardy forced Clark, ex-White Sox Carlos Lee doubled home Hardy for a 1-0 lead.
That first inning run didn't faze Prior. His RBI single tied the game 1-1 in the second. His second RBI single put the Cubs ahead 2-1 in the fourth. He struck out 10 Brewers. But the Brewers still led 3-2 when Prior departed, the result of Clark's two-run fourth inning homer.
Nomar Garciaparra erased that deficit and put the Cubs ahead 4-3 in the seventh. He doubled over Clark's head to drive home Jose Macias. Lee, who had been intentionally walked, took third on the double and continued home when Weeks bobbled the relay.
Prior's first singled scored rookie Matt Murton, who walked to open the second, and advanced on Corey Patterson's single.
Prior struck out six Brewers in the first three innings. Then, in the fourth, he took another swing with his RBI bat and put the Cubs ahead 2-1. His line single to right scored Jeromy Burnitz. The Cubs stranded three runners when Todd Walker flied deep to left.
That lead was short lived. Prior hung his head in dejection off the mound when Clark smashed a 1-2 pitch for a two run fourth inning home run that put the Brew Crew back in the lead 3-2.
The Cubs were mum about their pre-game one-hour closed house clubhouse meeting. "It was nothing serious," said Baker. "I promise."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times