You knew it wasn't going to be the Cubs' night just six pitches into the game, when this happened:
Plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth took what should have been a leadoff walk to Dexter Fowler and turned it into a called strikeout. The normally-calm Fowler muttered a few words under his Culbreth and walked away.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not blaming bad umpiring for the Cubs' 6-1 loss to the Brewers. But that seemed to set a tone for the evening. The Cubs just couldn't get anything going offensively against Zach Davies, not until the seventh inning, when Addison Russell singled in Ben Zobrist, who had singled and gone to third on a hit by Jason Heyward.
That was the sum of the Cubs' offense for the evening, unfortunately. Apart from that inning, only one other Cub got past first base. That was Anthony Rizzo, who doubled with two out in the first inning and was stranded.
Meanwhile, John Lackey ... well, he didn't pitch poorly, but he didn't throw particularly well, either. Two home runs did him in, a two-run shot by Jonathan Lucroy in the first, and a solo homer by Kirk Niewenhuis in the fourth. The outing was actually Lackey's best start since June, the only one since then where he had allowed fewer than four runs. So maybe there's progress back to where Lackey was before the seven-start stretch from June 14 to July 17 where he posted a 5.91 ERA.
The Cubs did play some good defense in this game, including this slick throw by Willson Contreras and tag by Adam Warren after Warren had made a wild pitch with Hernan Perez on third:
The game was still close at 3-1 in the eighth, with the Cubs having a chance, until Mike Montgomery made his first Cubs appearance with two out and two Brewers runners on base. Montgomery is now among the leaders for "worst Cubs debut ever" after giving up a three-run homer to Kirk Nieuwenhuis, the first batter he faced in a Cubs uniform. That put the game out of reach at 6-1.
I've seen just about enough of Nieuwenhuis, who must be salivating when he sees Cubs pitching this year:
Nieuwenhuis vs. Cubs: .364/.481/.864 (8-for-22, three doubles, three HR, six RBI, five walks)
Niewenhuis vs. everyone else: .188/.275/.325
With Jon Lester scheduled to start Sunday's game, Nieuwenhuis likely won't play, as he rarely starts against lefties.
Zobrist was the only Cub with more than one hit. That's good, as Zobrist hadn't had a multi-hit game since the end of June and his single broke in an 0-for-24 slump. It had been so long since Zobrist had a hit that he appeared to have forgotten the signs and signals he's supposed to give to his teammates in the dugout after a hit:
It was one of the few amusing moments of this otherwise dull loss. As the headline of this recap says, the Cubs' offense was really most of the cause of this defeat, and they'll need all the bats to get going.
Fortunately, the Cardinals also lost Saturday evening, so the Cubs' lead remains at 6½ games going into Sunday's action. The Cubs still have a chance to win this series. As noted above, Jon Lester goes for the Cubs. He'll face Milwaukee's Junior Guerra.