CHICAGO | The fickle winds of Wrigley Field giveth and they taketh away.
By the time Starlin Castro hit a game-ending fly ball to the warning track in right field with the bases loaded, the breeze that was howling that way most of the game Monday changed directions.
"That's Wrigley," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said after the 7-4 home-opening loss to Milwaukee before a crowd of 40,083. "It was the same conditions for eight innings. The first inning, they got four, and the wind shift cost us four."
The Brewers scored four runs in the first, three coming on a slicing Martin Maldonado drive to right that caught the 24-miles per hour jet stream and rolled to the wall, clearing the bases.
"I'm not going to make any excuses about it," Cubs starter Edwin Jackson said. "Everybody's got to go out and pitch and play in the same conditions. I put myself in a position where I was a pitch away and I didn't execute my pitches. I've got to do a better job of getting out of a jam."
Jackson referred to an 0-2 count on Jonathan Lucroy that ended in a walk instead of a third out.
"You take away the wind-blown pop-up to right field, I thought he pitched a pretty good game," Sveum said.
Jackson threw four scoreless frames after another run in the second, but Milwaukee's Marco Estrada was better from the start. He limited the Cubs to five hits over seven innings, only getting touched for two runs in the second on a Wellington Castillo home run that landed in the center-field basket. Estrada struck out six and walked one.
"He's got what we call a Bugs Bunny-type changeup," Sveum said. "He throttles left-handers. Other than (Castillo), we didn't hit a lot of balls hard off Estrada."
Down 7-2, the Cubs tried a rally in the ninth, forcing Milwaukee to bring in new closer Jim Henderson. A Maldonado error at first made it 7-4 and packed the bags, but Henderson fanned Dave Sappelt on a full count before getting Castro's deep fly ball to Norichika Aoki.
"I had a bad feeling when we got things going that the wind shift was going to have a factor in the game, and it did," Sveum said. "Both ways. Nobody's pressing right now. It's just a matter of everybody putting it together. Our four hitter doesn't have an RBI yet."
The Henderson save was a welcome sight for a Brewers' bullpen beleaguered much like Cubs' in the first week. Booed during introductions, deposed closer Carlos Marmol came on in the eighth to another resounding chorus. It got louder when he served up a first-pitch double to Ryan Braun, but he maneuvered his way through a 26-pitch inning without giving up a run.
"When you're with guys every day and know how they are behind the scenes, the adversity they go through, that's fun for nobody," Sveum said. "It's tough for all of us to see that."