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MIL@CHC: Gonzalez's three-run shot makes it 5-0

CHICAGO -- The Brewers dressed for a snowstorm and buried Cubs starter Paul Maholm under an avalanche of early runs.

With most of Milwaukee's hitters clad in head warmers, appearing equally suited for a snowmobile ride, a bank robbery or a baseball game, the Brewers scored five runs before Maholm recorded his third out and held on for a 7-4 win at frigid Wrigley Field on Tuesday night.

It got interesting in the ninth inning for the second straight night, but Francisco Rodriguez entered for his first Brewers save -- his first ninth-inning save opportunity since last July 8, before a trade from the Mets -- and Milwaukee's masked men pushed above .500 for the first time this season.

"It was so cold, man," 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."

The chill in the air didn't seem to affect K-Rod's Venezuelan countryman, shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who belted his first Brewers home run amid the five-run first inning. He played in three-quarter sleeves, without any extra headgear.

"Maybe he likes cold weather and I don't know about it," Rodriguez said.

Gonzalez was not immediately available to answer. He was in the hot tub after the game.

When Maholm, the former Pittsburgh Pirate, threw his first pitch after 7 p.m. CT, the temperature on Chicago's North Side was 40 degrees and falling, with a 9-mph wind blowing off Lake Michigan. The Brewers sent 10 men to the plate in the first inning, and all but Gonzalez and Brewers starting pitcher Chris Narveson wore Brewers-logoed head masks that covered their ears and mouths.

"Being a Florida boy, I get cold quick," said catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who would homer and drive in two runs.

After a Rickie Weeks leadoff walk and a Carlos Gomez double, Ryan Braun put the Brewers on the board with a sacrifice fly, and former Cub Aramis Ramirez continued his productive return to Wrigley with a run-scoring groundout. Cubs manager Dale Sveum argued to no avail after Corey Hart was hit by a pitch, and Gonzalez followed by hitting a 2-1 pitch into the left-field bleachers for three more runs and a 5-0 lead.

The quick strike made a winner of Narveson, who was sharp outside of a three-run third inning. He was charged with two earned runs on six hits in five innings for a winning season debut. He was happy to bat before throwing his first pitch.

"That was pretty good," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "If that wind's not blowing in, it could have been really good. Braun absolutely killed his ball [for a routine flyout]. ... But that's Wrigley Field. These guys talk about how a lot of times you pitch to the elements."

The Brewers carried a 7-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning for the second straight night, and again the Cubs made things interesting. Geovany Soto's home run off Jose Veras and a subsequent walk promoted a call for Rodriguez, who was the closer du jour because John Axford had thrown 53 pitches over the previous two days.

Rodriguez struck out David DeJesus and retired Darwin Barney on a game-ending groundout.

"Eight more to go," said Rodriguez, who has 292 career saves.

Maholm had shaky command throughout his four innings, charged with six runs on six hits, two walks and two hit batsmen. He rued both of the home runs.

"The pitch Gonzalez hit out was a bad cutter, so it pretty much turns into a [batting practice] fastball," Maholm said. "The pitch Lucroy hit out 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."

Narveson was better, thanks in part to a momentum-shifting defensive play by second baseman Weeks. Stationed on the shortstop side of the bag against pull-hitter Soto, Weeks dove to his left to stop a grounder, then fired to first base for the inning-ending out.

"Once we got through that third inning, we were good," Narveson said. "That's a huge play."

Narveson pitched two more scoreless innings before Roenicke went to his bullpen. Marco Estrada and Kameron Loe made scoreless appearances before Veras and Rodriguez teamed for the ninth inning.

The Brewers hustled for the warmth of the clubhouse after the final out. This was one night they didn't mind the cramped quarters at Wrigley Field.

"I don't know why some guys just handle the cold better than others," Roenicke said. "I was looking at [Gonzalez], and he's out there with sleeves to [mid-forearm] and he's like, 'It's not cold.' Then you've got the other guys with their face masks.

"I know one thing: I was really cold sitting on the bench."

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