4/9 Brewers 7, Cubs 5

The Cubs came up short once again. Darwin Barney and Bryan LaHair each homered and the Cubs threatened in the ninth but it wasn’t enough as Aramis Ramirez drove in two runs to back Shaun Marcum and help the Brewers post a 7-5 win Monday night.

“We’re going to fight,” Chris Volstad said. “I think players are showing that. We’re not a team that ever is going to give up. We were there for all those games and one or two things go differently and we’re 3-1. We just have to keep grinding.”

The Cubs trailed 7-3 going into the ninth and scored twice, helped in part by an error at third base by Ramirez. Brewers closer John Axford then struck out David DeJesus for the second out and walked Barney to load the bases. But Axford got Starlin Castro looking at strike three to end the game. The Cubs three losses have been decided by three runs or less.

“I think Castro just got caught looking breaking ball on the last pitch and [Axford] got a fastball by him,” Dale Sveum said. “It was nice to at least have a chance there.”

The Brewers scored twice on bunt plays, including a well executed suicide squeeze by Marcum. They’re figuring out ways to score without Prince Fielder.

“That doesn’t surprise you,” Sveum said. “I was there, I know they do that. Their pitchers really handle the bats — every one of their pitchers can handle the bats well, especially in that situation. … It was just add on runs and shows the luxury of having pitchers who can handle the bat like that, you have those options.”

Sveum does know the Brewers, having spent the last six seasons on their coaching staff, including the last three as the hitting coach.

Extra bases:

* LaHair, who hit 38 homers last season for Triple-A Iowa, tops in the Pacific Coast League, didn’t connect in Spring Training. The Cubs still expect the first baseman to be their prime power source this season and he showed why in the second when he launched a 3-2 pitch from Marcum over the right field bleachers and onto Sheffield Avenue.

“I definitely got all of that ball,” LaHair said. “The last couple days the wind has been bad and holding balls up. I hit it in the right spot.”

“It’d be nice to see that every three days,” Sveum said of LaHair’s blast.

Said Marcum: “I got 3-2 on LaHair and I said, ‘Here, just hit it.’ And he did.”

* Barney tied the score with one out in the Chicago first with his home run. He’s hit three now at Wrigley Field in his young career, and all have landed in the basket rimming the outfield wall.

“In Spring Training, he drove the ball probably as well as anybody in camp, so it’s nice to get that goose egg off the stat line anyway,” Sveum said.

Who would’ve picked the second baseman as the first Cubs player to homer this season?

“Probably not,” Barney said of the odds. “I might have put my salary on that.”

* Castro’s streak of 43-consecutive games reaching base ended. Only one Cubs player in the last 94 years has reached base in more games: Riggs Stephenson, who had a 44-game streak in 1928.

“A lot of things he does is amazing,” Barney said. “He’s definitely one of the most talented guys I’ve played next to or with. Start the next one. He’s not the kind of guy who it’s going to get to him or hurt his morale. He’ll come out tomorrow and get a couple hits and help us out.”

* Blake DeWitt, scratched from Sunday’s lineup because of back spasms, was able to pinch-hit and came through with a sacrifice fly in the fifth.

* When Chris Volstad took the mound on Monday, he became the 1,900th player to appear in at least one regular season game for the Cubs franchise since its inception in 1876. Volstad did not get a decision, giving up three runs on five hits over five innings.

* Paul Maholm makes his Cubs debut on Tuesday night against the Brewers, who will counter with lefty Chris Narveson. Expect a lot of right-handers in the lineup.

— Carrie Muskat 

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