Cubs open key Brewers series with 2-1 loss

MILWAUKEE — The Cubs brought pennant-race baseball and a whole bunch of their fans to Miller Park Friday night.

With a 1½-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers entering the weekend, the Cubs had some margin for error.

They also had plenty of momentum, having gone 11-2 since the all-star break while the Brewers went into Friday 4-9 since the break and 2-8 on their just-concluded road trip.

The Cubs and starting pitcher Jose Quintana gave up single runs in the second and fourth innings before a monster home run to left field by Javier Baez brought the Cubs within a run in the eighth. But the Cubs fell short 2-1 before a sellout crowd of 42,574. Pinch hitter Kyle Schwarber struck out with Anthony Rizzo on third base to end the game.

The atmosphere left nothing to be desired.

“Tremendous,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon, whose team fell to 54-48 while the Brewers moved to 55-50. “Outstanding. That’s all we’ve been playing lately. I love it. I think our guys love it.”

Quintana suffered the first loss by a Cubs starting pitcher since the all-star break. He worked 6 innings, giving up 4 hits and 2 runs. He was outduled by Brewers starter Brent Suter.

“It was a slow start,” said Quintana, who is 2-1 with a 2.37 ERA with the Cubs since his trade from the White Sox. “I was trying to make adjustments. That’s going to happen sometimes.”

He agreed with Maddon on the pennant race feel in the ballpark.

“Yeah, it’s a contending team in our division,” he said. “Every game counts. I’m really happy to feel the atmosphere every night when I go to the mound. It was good. It was a tough night for me. Come back tomorrow.”

The Brewers are a young team that unexpectedly set the pace in the National League Central in the first half. Two years ago, a young Cubs team won 97 games and a wild card, advancing to the NL championship series. That team also faced some midseason…

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