With the Cubs trailing Milwaukee by two runs with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday, Eric Karros lined a shot down the right-field line that slowly sank in the chilly, wet air.
The remainder of a crowd of 38,946 followed the flight with nervous anticipation, knowing the runners were moving and the game would be won or lost by a matter of inches, depending on where the ball dropped.
But right fielder Jason Conti made a last-second slide with his glove outstretched, corralling the final out to secure Milwaukee's 2-0 victory and give the Brewers two wins in the three-game series.
"From where I hit it, I thought I had a shot," Karros said. Conti "made a heck of a play. They can play real aggressive baseball, and he made a great catch."
It may have been wishful thinking, but most players thought Karros' ball would drop inincluding Sammy Sosa, who was rounding third with the potential tying run.
"My goodness, yes," Sosa said. "He made a nice play. I'll tell you, bases loaded ... with just a little bit more luck, we would've had that game."
Instead, the Brewers won for the 12th time in 13 games and went 6-3 at Wrigley Field this year.
"Boy, it's tough to lose like that," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "We knew we were playing a hot club. Everything they did was right. You just know that our hot time is going to come."
Juan Cruz (1-5) pitched well after being called up from Triple-A Iowa, allowing two runs in 51/3 innings. Baker said Cruz earned another start, and he'll probably pitch Friday in Milwaukee.
The loss pushed the Cubs 21/2 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals, who moved into the National League Central lead with a 5-0 win over Cincinnati, coupled with Houston's loss to San Diego. The Cubs also are 31/2 games behind wild-card co-leaders Florida and Philadelphia.
Milwaukee left-hander Doug Davis, who was waived by Texas and Toronto this year, shut out the Cubs on five hits through 81/3 innings, and closer Dan Kolb used a 97-m.p.h. fastball to post his 14th straight save.
The Cubs were shut out for the eighth time, watching the Brewers turn four double plays. They dropped under .500 at home with a 33-34 record and finished August with a 15-13 record despite a 3.49 earned-run average by their pitching staff. They hit .244 as a team and averaged only 3.6 runs per game in August.
Now comes September, a month that seldom has been kind to the Cubs. Baker has said all along that all he wanted was a chance. The opportunity is here.
"If someone would've said in spring training, 'Would you take being two games out in the loss column going into September?' I guarantee you everybody would say yes," Karros said. "That's all you can do is hope that the games in September mean something, and they obviously mean something here."
Brewers 2, Cubs 0