MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers missed an opportunity to turn a good weekend into a great one when they fell to the Cubs on Sunday.
In the short view, an 8-2 loss at Miller Park snapped Milwaukee's 10-game home winning streak against the Cubs and further exposed an offense and middle-relief corps that have been inconsistent at best.
In the longer view, the Brewers won the weekend, two games to one, to snap a streak of four losing series. First baseman Taylor Green delivered two RBIs in Sunday's finale, a positive day for a player who could prove very important as Milwaukee tries to move on from injuries. Perhaps most important, right-hander Marco Estrada made it five consecutive quality starts, the Brewers' first solid turn all the way through a starting rotation that may have to carry the team if it wants to contend.
"I think things are turning around for us," Estrada said. "Every single guy is going out there, giving us five-plus innings. They've all pitched really well these last couple of outings."
Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke, Randy Wolf, Shaun Marcum and Estrada combined for a 1.36 ERA and a .158 opponents' average during this turn through the rotation.
"I think if we keep this going, we're going to be all right," Estrada said. "We have a really good team, and sometimes teams go through this [phase] where we do one thing [pitch or hit] but not the other. I think we're starting to put it together and we're looking pretty good."
They are still looking up in the standings at the Cardinals. Milwaukee will begin a two-game series at Citi Field against the Mets on Monday night with a 15-19 record, five games behind National League Central-leading St. Louis.
Brewers reliever Kameron Loe absorbed a tough-luck loss after allowing an unearned run in the seventh inning. He replaced Estrada with the teams tied at 2 and surrendered a one-out double to Ian Stewart, who trotted home when Saturday's hero Edwin Maysonet misplayed a two-out grounder.
Maysonet, who had teamed on two terrific double plays before his error, aired a throw from shortstop into the camera well, giving the Cubs the go-ahead run. Chicago kept on going from there, scoring at least once in each of the final five innings.
Cubs reliever Shawn Camp picked up the win despite allowing the tying run in the bottom of the sixth inning.
"That would've been a tough sweep," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "That was a pretty well played game."
Green accounted for both Brewers scores. In the fourth inning against Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija, he delivered a sacrifice fly that snapped the teams' scoreless tie. Ryan Braun had walked leading off the inning and advanced to third on an Aramis Ramirez hit and a rare sacrifice bunt by power-hitting right fielder Corey Hart.
In the bottom of the sixth, Green struck again. With runners at second and third base with two outs, he hit a grounder deep into the hole at shortstop. Starlin Castro made a strong throw but Green beat it with a headfirst slide, temporarily tying the game at 2.
"I've never done that before," Green said of his risky dive for the base. "I don't know what happened."
The Cubs had answers for each Brewers rally. Ian Stewart tied the game with a solo home run on an 0-2 change-up from Estrada in the fifth inning, and the Cubs took the lead when pinch-hitter Reed Johnson smacked a down-the-middle fastball for another solo homer leading off the sixth.
Estrada lamented those two pitches.
"They cost me," Estrada said. "One was a really bad changeup I left right over the middle and high, and the other was a fastball I shouldn't have thrown. Bad pitch selection. It wasn't the right pitch to throw at that time."
After the Cubs pushed ahead in the seventh on Maysonet's error, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke thought his club still had a good chance.
"We're still OK there, we're fine," Roenicke said. "In the late innings, we can scratch out a run or two. We just can't let it get away from us like we did."
But it did get away from left-hander Manny Parra, who surrendered two runs in the eighth inning, and right-hander Vinnie Chulk, who allowed three more runs on five hits in a long ninth inning.
"We're trying to match it up as best we can, and I still have confidence those guys can do the job," Roenicke said. "But they've got to get confident, too, to where they come in and feel good and when somebody gets on base they can still get out of it."
Parra and Chulk had pitched well two nights earlier in the Brewers' marathon, 13-inning win.
Their struggles on Sunday overshadowed what had been a positive afternoon for Estrada, who allowed two runs on five hits in six innings. He walked one, struck out four and avoided the sort of blow-up inning that ruined his previous start on the homestand, against the Reds.
"I just have to cut down on the home runs," he said. "That's what's killing me right now."
Roenicke called it a good weekend for his club.
"I think so," he said. "[Saturday's] game was good. We certainly battled the game before [on Friday]. Today we were in it for six innings, and then we let it slip away. ... It's that consistency that I talk about. If we can't find that rhythm, get the offense and the defense synched together, until we do that, we're going to be inconsistent."