MILWAUKEE -- The Cubs' problems on Friday began on the first play in the Brewers' first, and then snowballed.
First baseman Anthony Rizzo couldn't handle Norichika Aoki's grounder, and the error led to a four-run first inning. Cubs manager Dale Sveum was ejected for defending starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija. Brewers shortstop Jean Segura stole second and was caught stealing at second in the same inning.
And Julio Borbon made his Cubs debut, arriving in time to pinch-run in the ninth and get thrown out trying to steal to end the game.
Rizzo, Luis Valbuena and David DeJesus did homer for the Cubs, but they couldn't overcome the mistakes in a 5-4 loss to the Brewers at Miller Park.
"We're still coming up short in these one-run games, short because of this play in this part of the game, or something where you can't have a completely clean game," Sveum said. "We had [a clean game] yesterday. You win those games. You don't have clean games, it's not easy to win unless you have a prolific offense."
Let's start with the Brewers' first. Aoki reached on a fielding error by Rizzo, who couldn't get his glove on the grounder. Aoki scampered to third on Segura's single, and both scored on Ryan Braun's fourth home run of the season, which came an 0-2 splitter. It was the first home run off Samardzija this season.
"It was a splitter that stayed up," Samardzija said. "You can't make a mistake against a good hitter like that. You bounce that and he takes it, you're still alive. I was going for the punchout there. I had him down two strikes and he put the bat on it."
Rickie Weeks then dropped a double in shallow right past a diving Darwin Barney, prompting pitching coach Chris Bosio to check on Samardzija. After the chat, Samardzija was ahead 0-2 against Jonathan Lucroy, who then tripled down the right-field line to drive in Weeks, complete the team cycle and open a 4-0 lead.
"You have to get him early," Braun said of Samardzija. "You saw it tonight -- once he settles in, he's as tough as anybody in baseball."
"It all started with the first ground ball of the game," Sveum said. "That set everything into a tailspin. Easy ground ball, boot it and then they were able to hit and run and execute it. That would've never happened if we got Aoki out. We outplayed them for the last eight innings. That seems to be par for the course."
Did the first play rattle Samardzija?
"It made me step off for a second there and get my wits about me and realize the situation we're in and limit the damage," the pitcher said. "I thought I made some good pitches. If you want to be the pitcher you want to be, you have to battle through those situations and keep your team in the game."
He did that. Samardzija (1-3) retired 14 of the next 15 batters after Lucroy's triple, and in the Brewers' sixth, thought a 2-2 pitch to Braun was good enough to be called a strike. He said something to home-plate umpire Chris Guccione, who took off his mask to respond. Sveum went out to defend his pitcher and was tossed.
"That's not acceptable when a guy's out there competing and [the umpire] rips the mask off for one pitch," Sveum said. "It wasn't like [Samardzija] was [complaining] about eight or 10 pitches during the ballgame."
Carlos Gomez gave the Brewers a much-needed insurance run when he led off the Milwaukee seventh with a home run to open a 5-3 lead.
The Cubs had tallied in the third when Valbuena led off against Marco Estrada (2-0) with his second home run of the season, and one out later, Samardzija walked to set up DeJesus' homer. Rizzo connected on his fifth home run leading off the eighth. But the Cubs finished 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
The 62-degree temperature inside Miller Park felt like a warm summer day for the Cubs, who had dealt with rain and cold during their just-completed 10-game homestand, which included two games postponed because of inclement weather. There were only two games out of the 10 when the temp exceeded 44 degrees.
The game got strange in the Brewers' eighth. Segura singled to lead off against Kevin Gregg and stole second. Braun walked, and Shawn Camp entered. Camp struck out Rickie Weeks, but during the at-bat, Segura broke for third and was caught in a brief rundown, eventually sliding back into second. However, Braun had advanced to second as well.
Second-base umpire Phil Cuzzi called Braun out. Segura thought he was out and headed for the Milwaukee dugout, but first-base coach Garth Iorg told him to stay at first. Barney tried to chase after Segura with the ball. Too late. Segura was safe, until he was caught stealing second to end the inning.
"Bizarre," umpire crew chief Tom Hallion said. "Technically, [Segura] stole second, stole first, then got thrown out stealing second."
"Never saw that," Cuzzi said.
"I don't know if that's ever happened in the history of the game -- a guy just stole second and got thrown out at second in the same inning," Sveum said.
The Cubs felt they had tagged Segura when he was off the bag, but Cuzzi didn't see it that way.
"Once the call was made, Braun's a dead runner and he's out," Barney said. "He's invisible out there. Segura had the freedom to go anywhere. As he took off back to the dugout, I saw the umpire point to say [Braun] was out, and that's when I tried to grab the ball and run in that direction. I haven't looked at the replay yet, but in some ways, both of them might have been out if a tag was applied to Segura when he was off the bag."
Imagine Borbon's surprise. He got the news midday that the Cubs had claimed him, then packed, caught a plane from Dallas to O'Hare Airport in Chicago, got in a limo and arrived at Miller Park by the eighth. He got in uniform, did a few sprints in the dugout and was inserted as a pinch-runner with two outs in the ninth. Then he was thrown out trying to steal second.
Just another day at the ballpark.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.