Brewers 7, Cubs 5
A big lead was slipping away and John Axford's stomach was churning. He held his composure and the Brewers hung on, too.
Aramis Ramirez drove in two runs in his return to Wrigley Field, Ryan Braun got booed relentlessly and Milwaukee walked off with a 7-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Monday night.
The Brewers were sailing along with a four-run lead going into the ninth when things got real interesting. The Cubs scored two and had the bases loaded when Axford struck out Starlin Castro looking on three pitches to end the game.
''They seem to get very interesting when I'm out there at times,'' Axford said.
This one sure took a dramatic late turn.
Axford came in with runners on first and third with one out, and Ramirez immediately booted Marlon Byrd's grounder to third, allowing one run to score. A pinch-hitting Steve Clevenger drove a run-scoring single to center that Carlos Gomez misplayed, putting runners on second and third and making it a two-run game.
After David DeJesus struck out, Darwin Barney walked to load the bases, but Axford struck out Castro for his first save.
''We're never gonna give up,'' LaHair said. ''We're going to take every at-bat like it's our last.''
Shaun Marcum (1-0) settled down after a shaky start and gave up three runs in six solid innings. Rickie Weeks homered to help the Brewers start the four-game series on a winning note after getting pounded twice while dropping two of three at home to St. Louis.
Ramirez got a mixed reaction from fans in a successful homecoming, driving in the game's first run with a sacrifice fly and adding an RBI double in the seventh that made it 6-3.
''It was good for Rami, I know he's fired up,'' manager Ron Roenicke said. ''The adrenaline is a little bit different when you come back home.
That came after Matt Gamel hit a run-scoring triple off Shawn Camp (0-1) and scored in the sixth, breaking a 3-3 tie.
That was enough for Marcum, who gave up solo homers to Barney and Bryan LaHair in the first two innings but not much after that.
The reaction for Ramirez was hardly a surprise, considering fans often questioned his effort during his eight-plus seasons in Chicago. Nor was the reception for Braun, who had two hits and scored a run. The reigning NL MVP's potential 50-game suspension for a positive drug test was overturned, but the scar to his reputation figures to linger.
One fan in the left-field bleachers brought a large ''Cheater'' sign. Another held up one that read ''Bonds: 762'' on one line with ''Braun: MVP'' on the second and an asterisk with the word ''Cheaters'' on the third. Just about everyone let him hear it in his first road game, and he might as well get used to it.
''Braun has been one of the best players in the big leagues for the last four years, so he's always catching some sort of razzing from fans,'' Axford said. ''This year it's just going to be a little different.''
Marcum, meanwhile, looked as if he might not last long in this one, with Barney driving a ball to the left-field basket in the first and LaHair clearing the right-field bleachers to make it 2-1 in the second - Chicago's first homers this season.
Weeks tied it at 2 with a laser off Chris Volstad just inside the left-field foul pole leading off the third, and Alex Gonzalez gave the Brewers a 3-2 lead in the fourth when he doubled and scored from third on Marcum's squeeze.
The Cubs tied it in the fifth, but the Brewers quickly regained the lead, sending old friend Dale Sveum and the Cubs to their third loss in four games.
Volstad, acquired from Miami in the Carlos Zambrano trade, allowed three runs and five hits after the Cubs got dominant starts from Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija against Washington.
''You want to push each other,'' Volstad said. ''I was trying to go out there and do what Jeff did last night. ... As a staff, I think we're feeling pretty good.''
Notes: Castro had reached safely in 43 straight games for Chicago dating to Aug. 15 before going 0-for-5. ... Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said Wednesday would be a ''logical'' day to give OF Corey Hart a day of rest since it's a day game after a night game. Hart had surgery on his right knee in March and left this game in the seventh. ... Chris Narveson starts Tuesday's game for Milwaukee, with Paul Maholm pitching for Chicago.