MILWAUKEE—A checked swing that wasn't called a strike in the first inning and a game-winning bloop single that dropped within reach of Jerry Hairston in the ninth epitomized the way things have been going for the Cubs.
Anything that can go wrong usually does.
Brewers before a pro-Cubs crowd of 31,721 Thursday at Miller Park.
The Cubs limped home with a 12-15 record and the look of a team waiting for an anvil to drop on its head.
"These games will make us stronger," manager Dusty Baker said. "It's certainly not going to break us."
Thursday's loss was heartbreaking because the Cubs had come back to tie twice in the final two inningson Ben Grieve's two-out, pinch RBI single off Ricky Bottalico in the eighth and on Aramis Ramirez's two-out, 420-foot home run off Derrick Turnbow in the ninth.
The madness began when Milwaukee shortstop Bill Hall walked on a 3-1 pitch at which he appeared to swing, leading to a first-inning run against Greg Maddux.
It ended when LaTroy Hawkins jammed Carlos Lee with a runner on second and two outs in the ninth, only to watch Lee's opposite-field hit elude Hairston's grasp and bring home Brady Clark with the winning run.
Clark had reached with a single off Hawkins' foot, setting up the freaky finish that led to the Brewers' seventh straight victory.
"I don't believe in luck, but, man, with 'Hawk '" Hairston said. "None of the balls were hit hard. You couldn't have placed that ball any better."
Hairston acknowledged he should have caught the ball off Lee's bat, which fell in what he called "no man's land" in right field.
"That's a play I make," Hairston said. "That's what's so frustrating. I feel bad for Hawk. He made a great pitch, and it just didn't happen."
Hairston had an adventurous day, beginning in the first when he was picked off first base after walking to lead off the game. It was the second time in the series Hairston's baserunning had hurt the Cubs' scoring chances in the first inning.
Maddux, meanwhile, had a difficult time early trying to figure out plate umpire Rob Drake's strike zone. After Clark reached on an infield hit and advanced on shortstop Ronny Cedeno's throwing error, Hall walked while checking his swing.
Maddux was certain Hall had gone around and asked for an appeal. First-base umpire Mike Reilly ruled Hall hadn't gone around, although replays appeared to show otherwise. Maddux promptly walked Geoff Jenkins on four pitches. After falling behind Lyle Overbay 2-0 with one out, Maddux gave up a sacrifice fly to center.
The Brewers manufactured another run in the second on Chad Moeller's bloop single, Gary Glover's sacrifice and Clark's first-pitch RBI double to left. Cedeno's first major-league home run, in the third, brought the Cubs within a run, but Maddux's control eluded him again in the third.
With Jenkins on first, Maddux's first pitch to Lee sailed toward his head and zoomed to the backstop, advancing Jenkins. Lee's groundout sent Jenkins to third, where he scored on Overbay's second sacrifice fly to make it 3-1.
Michael Barrett's two-run homer off Glover tied it 3-3 in the sixth before Wes Helms' first home run in the bottom of the inning put Milwaukee back on top.
Moeller, who entered the game hitting .095, hit his first homer off Michael Wuertz in the eighth to give Milwaukee a 5-4 lead before Ramirez answered back in the ninth.
The back-and-forth game ended when Hairston overran Lee's pop fly in short right field with two outs in the ninth, watching it drop beside him as Clark scored the winning run.
"We're not playing that badly," Hairston said. "We've been in just about every game. Sooner or later I know things are going to turn around."