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MIL@CHC: Sveum on Maholm's struggles in Cubs loss

CHICAGO -- Paul Maholm has had success at Wrigley Field, compiling a 6-2 career record there. But on Tuesday night, the lefty never got a chance to feel at home.

Alex Gonzalez belted a three-run homer to highlight a five-run first inning, and Jonathan Lucroy added a solo shot to power the Brewers to a 7-4 victory over Maholm and the Cubs.

After playing seven seasons with the Pirates, Tuesday was Maholm's Cubs debut. It also was the coldest game at Wrigley so far with the game-time temperature at 40 degrees and falling throughout the night. Hot chocolate was a necessity.

"Obviously it's cold and windy, but the first inning, it is what it is," Maholm said. "To put it bluntly, I [stunk]. To put the team down 5-0, it's not what you want to do."

The Brewers were dressed appropriately, most wearing face masks. They warmed up quickly in the first, sending 10 batters to the plate and needing two hits to take the lead. Maholm walked Rickie Weeks to start the game, and Carlos Gomez doubled. Ryan Braun hit a sacrifice fly, and Gomez scored on a fielder's choice when Aramis Ramirez hit a bouncer to first baseman Jeff Baker, whose throw home was high.

Maholm then hit Corey Hart on the foot with a pitch, and Gonzalez followed with his first homer to give the Brewers a 5-0 lead. Maholm, who threw 41 pitches in the first, doesn't give up many home runs.

"I know -- I thought the wind was blowing in," Maholm said, trying to find something to laugh about. "The pitches they hit out were brutal. The pitch Gonzalez hit out -- obviously, in the first inning, I hit two guys, walk two guys, so it's a weird inning. The pitch Gonzalez hit out was a bad cutter, so it pretty much turns into a [batting practice] fastball.

"The pitch Lucroy hit out [in the third] was a changeup that cut right back into his bat, so it was almost the same, another BP fastball. If you make your pitch, I think [there would be] different results. [I threw] bad pitches, and they did what they were supposed to."

The Cubs need their starting pitchers to go deep if they're going to have success this season. Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija have each posted quality starts, and Chris Volstad lasted five innings on Monday. Maholm's was the shortest outing so far and his briefest appearance since 3 2/3 innings last April 19 against the Marlins.

"He couldn't put anybody away," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "I didn't think he had a good feel for his curveball at all and keeping his changeup down. He couldn't get the ball inside for strikes. It just snowballed a little bit in that first inning. He settled down and did OK after that, but the damage was done already."

The Cubs loaded the bases with one out in the third against lefty Chris Narveson (1-0), and Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run single, extending his hitting streak to five games. Ian Stewart was safe on a fielding error by Gonzalez, and Baker hit a sacrifice fly to pull the Cubs within three runs. Geovany Soto added a leadoff home run in the ninth, but it was too little, too late.

How cold was it?

"It was a pretty cold night," Sveum said.

"It was so cold, man," Milwaukee's Francisco Rodriguez said. "I've never experienced anything like this in 10 years of being in the big leagues. I don't think I can remember anything colder than this."

Maholm (0-1) was lifted after throwing 80 pitches over four innings and giving up six runs on six hits. He admitted to not following his normal game plan. The lefty couldn't establish his sinker and couldn't throw his breaking pitches. It's tough to win in the big leagues with one pitch.

"I told [pitching coach Chris Bosio] as soon as I came in after the first that I was [mad] at myself," Maholm said. "I started doing it from the second inning on and things were better. I don't know if it was more trying to do too much, but it's one of 30-something starts.

"Obviously, [we] as a team want to get off to a better start than we have. We've been in every game. For me to put us down that much was a tough battle for the guys in the lineup. It's a long season, we'll battle back and we'll get after it tomorrow."

With the loss, the Cubs dropped to 1-4, and Sveum now is 0-2 against his former team. All of Chicago's five games have been decided by three runs or fewer.

"I think we have a very good team, but so far what I've seen is the other team has played better than us," Soriano said. "All we need is one win and see how we respond."

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