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Things are looking down for Cubs

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



MILWAUKEE — These are the games that try Cubs’ souls.

They’re also the games the Cubs are going to have to start winning because they figure to be in a lot of them this year. That’s the way the team looks to be set up and the way the rest of the division sets up.

Maybe this 6-5 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on pinch hitter Casey McGehee’s two-out, two-run home run off Kerry Wood in the eighth ­inning will be a long-forgotten, meaningless blip for a team in contention by midseason.

But it doesn’t make it sting any less now. And it doesn’t change the fact that the Cubs head to Houston with losses in two of their first three series instead of with three series victories, only because of a play or two in a pair of games they lost in the opponents’ final at-bat.

“We know we’re going to play tight games; that’s part of it,’’ said Wood, who pointed to his leadoff walk to Yuniesky Betancourt in the eighth on a 3-2 pitch as the difference-maker Sunday. “Home runs happen. But you can’t walk guys late in the game. That’s why.’’

The Cubs made it harder on themselves by stranding nine runners and going 2-for-17 with men in scoring position on a day when Yovani Gallardo, the Brewers’ Opening Day starter, was on the ropes throughout his five innings.

Along the way, they wasted three doubles by Aramis Ramirez, six walks issued by Brewers pitchers and a competitive, five-inning season debut for starter Casey Coleman.

“We were looking for a knockout punch all day long offensively,’’ manager Mike Quade said. “We’re just not giving ourselves much room for error.’’

The game already was the Cubs’ eighth in nine that was decided by three runs or fewer, and it was their third one-run game.

And while the Astros might be a soft spot on the schedule, the Cubs are facing a bullpen day Tuesday ­because of injuries in the starting rotation. They also might be down an outfielder for at least a few days after platoon leadoff man Kosuke Fukudome strained his left hamstring making a shoestring catch in the fifth inning.

“We’re hoping it’ll be a mild [strain],’’ Quade said. “We’ll know a lot more [today] as far as the severity of it.’’

Even after McGehee’s big blow, the Cubs had another chance in the ninth when Marlon Byrd led off with a single against Brewers closer John Axford.

But Byrd was thrown out trying to steal second two pitches later — on a “miscommunication’’ — and the would-be rally was snuffed.

Byrd suggested he saw the steal sign from third-base coach Ivan DeJesus — “Did I go?’’ he said — but refused to answer follow-up questions or to elaborate during a brief, terse exchange with reporters.

“There was a miscommunication there,” Quade said. “We have to deal with that [today] and make sure that I didn’t screw the damn thing up, and I might have. But I didn’t care for that situation to be running.’’

More than anything, it just underscored the razor-thin margin the Cubs have been dealing with.

“Well, it’s not easy,’’ Wood said. “You think they’re going to bounce your way eventually, and you’re going to get some breaks.

“But we’ve got to win that game — there’s no question. We’ve got to win that game and win that series. And it didn’t happen.’’



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