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CHC@MIL: Vitters' first career homer extends the lead

MILWAUKEE -- Josh Vitters and Darwin Barney were intently studying the video of Monday's game in the clubhouse. They weren't replaying Vitters' first Major League home run, but instead were examining the rookie third baseman's throwing technique.

It's all part of the learning process for the young Cubs.

Jonathan Lucroy hit two home runs, including a three-run shot in an eight-run fifth inning, to spark the Brewers to a 9-5 victory on Monday night over the Cubs at Miller Park and spoil Vitters' milestone day.

The Cubs' No. 1 Draft pick in 2007, Vitters hit his first home run with two outs in the fifth to open a 3-1 lead. He entered the game with three hits in 33 at-bats, including one double, and launched a 3-2 pitch from Mark Rogers (1-1) over the left-field fence.

"It felt really good," Vitters said. "It's just a shame it couldn't have been more."

Vitters has been described as a fastball hitter. The good news for the Cubs is he connected on an offspeed pitch.

"He was hammering me with breaking balls all day, so it was nice to finally make the adjustment and get to one," Vitters said.

A pastor from a Lutheran church who is a huge Cubs fan apparently caught the ball and returned the souvenir to Vitters hoping to get a chance to sing the national anthem before a game at Wrigley Field in exchange. Vitters got the ball. We'll have to wait and see if the pastor sings.

Cubs manager Dale Sveum was happy for Vitters but then reminded the media of the day's lesson: productive outs. In the first, David DeJesus led off with a double, but Vitters struck out rather than advance the runner.

"That's what they're here for -- to see Major League breaking balls and evaluate them to go to the next step," Sveum said of the young roster.

And learn how to be better defensively. Vitters owes Anthony Rizzo lunch after the first baseman saved a couple of his throws. That's what prompted Barney's postgame tutoring.

"Barney's a veteran guy, which sounds weird, but it's awesome -- what better guy to get advice from than one of the better second basemen in the game?" Vitters said of Barney, 26, who is leading the National League in fielding percentage in his second full season at second.

"They've been through everything," Vitters said of the few veterans. "I love getting [tips], feeding off it. There's always stuff to work on. That's what I focus on -- is things I need to improve on."

The Cubs have lost 16 of their last 20 games. Sveum's focus is on evaluating the young players like Vitters, who was batting .304 with 17 home runs in 110 games with Triple-A Iowa before he was promoted Aug. 5.

"It's not that easy when you're facing that kind of lineup with those veteran hitters," Sveum said of the Brewers. "You make any mistakes and they hit the ball out of the ballpark. If you can't keep them in the ballpark, it's going to be a long day. We swung the bats OK today, but still, a lot of strikeouts today, too."

The Cubs struck out 12 times, including seven strikeouts by Rogers, who picked up his first Major League win.

"I don't think we've seen the best of him yet, to be honest with you," Lucroy said of Rogers. "He's trying to find his 'feel.' He goes out there some innings and is just unbelievable, and then other innings he goes out, you can tell he's lost his feel. As soon as he gets consistent, he's going to be real special."

Justin Germano (2-3) may not have felt special, but he felt good about his outing. DeJesus gave Germano the lead when he doubled to open the game and scored one out later on Rizzo's ground-rule double. DeJesus hit a sacrifice fly in the second -- and added another RBI with a groundout in the seventh -- but Lucroy hit his first home run of the night in the Brewers' second to close the gap to 2-1.

After Vitters' home run, the Brewers rallied in the bottom of the fifth. Pinch-hitter Travis Ishikawa hit an RBI single, Norichika Aoki hit a sacrifice fly and Corey Hart smacked a two-run single to chase Germano. Lucroy greeted Jeff Beliveau with his second home run. In his second at-bat of the inning, Carlos Gomez followed with a solo shot to open a 9-3 lead.

"People might think I'm crazy, but I felt like I pitched a lot better than the line shows," Germano said. "I got ground balls that last inning. They just hit them where guys weren't. That's part of the game. A couple inches to the left, a couple inches to the right, you get out of that inning giving up a couple runs. I felt like my stuff was good and I felt I did all right except for eliminating the damage that last inning."

He's just like Vitters, taking it one day at a time, one lesson at a time.

"I'm not really trying to go too far ahead of myself more than one outing at a time," Germano said. "With limited games left, you want to put up as many consistent starts as you can. You have to remember you are going to hit some bad ones here and there, and try to shake them off and bounce back."

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