CHICAGO -- The Cubs still can't win three in a row.
Rickie Weeks had three hits, including a solo homer, and Casey McGehee, Corey Hart, Yuniesky Betancourt and Jonathan Lucroy each drove in two runs to power the Brewers to a 9-5 victory Wednesday night over the Cubs.
Carlos Zambrano (5-4) took the loss, which ended Chicago's brief winning streak at two. The Cubs are the only Major League team to not have a winning streak of at least three games.
"We've knocked on this door a few times," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "I always feel like when we have one of the big three on the mound we have a shot."
Zambrano is definitely one of the big three. But since his "We stink" rant in St. Louis on June 5, when he criticized the team, he's 0-2 and has given up 12 runs on 16 hits over 12 1/3 innings. Quade pointed out that four of those runs came on a grand slam in the eighth in his last start against the Phillies when he was pushing Zambrano for one more inning to avoid overworking an already overworked bullpen.
"This is a pretty good club," Quade said of the Brewers. "It wasn't vintage 'Z.' A couple balls were hit hard, but I thought he threw the ball great. He should've been through four with one run. The fifth inning was a tough inning for him."
Jeff Baker and Reed Johnson, activated from the disabled list this week, showed why they were missed when they both homered off Chris Narveson (4-4). Baker hit a solo shot with two outs in the first, and Johnson belted a three-run homer in the fifth.
The start of the game was delayed 1 hour, 42 minutes by rain, but Weeks came out swinging with a double to lead off for the Brewers. Nyjer Morgan was safe on an infield single, but Zambrano settled down and struck out the next three.
In the third, Zambrano got an assist as Weeks doubled to right and tried to stretch his hit into a triple, but he was thrown out on a perfect 9-4-5 relay, with second baseman DJ LeMahieu's throw right on target. The rookie got a standing ovation from the Cubs bullpen on the play.
After Baker's homer, the Brewers tied the game at 1 in the fourth on Hart's RBI single, driving in Ryan Braun, who had doubled. The Cubs failed to turn a double play on Betancourt's grounder, and Lucroy hit a go-ahead, two-out RBI single.
Then the fifth. With two outs, Braun doubled and Prince Fielder was intentionally walked. McGehee drove both in with a first-pitch double and then scored on Hart's single for a 5-1 lead.
Zambrano didn't like the decision to walk Fielder but didn't fight it.
"I don't like walks," Zambrano said. "I don't like walks, period. I don't like intentional walks. The manager thought that it was the right decision. I believe so, too. I don't like it, but I have to do it. Sometimes you don't like things and you have to do it."
McGehee began the night with six hits in his last 52 at-bats. He obviously felt better about the outcome than Zambrano.
"That definitely felt good, especially the way that game started out," McGehee said. "It's been a progression. I feel like my at-bats have gotten a whole lot better, I've just been finding guys to hit them at. ... Hopefully, me and Yuni [Betancourt] can kind of get back to what we're capable of offensively. Those are the kind of at-bats that make you feel good."
Narveson walked the first two batters he faced in the fifth and Johnson, playing his second game since being activated, drove both in with his third homer. But the Brewers loaded the bases in the seventh and opened a 7-4 lead on Betancourt's two-run single. Weeks hit his 13th homer with one out in the eighth off John Grabow, launching the ball onto Waveland Avenue behind the left-field bleachers.
It's hard to catch your breath against the Brewers.
"They scuffled the last couple days, and it's only a matter of time before they get it going," Johnson said. "They've got good hitters in their lineup up and down all the way. Even their pitchers can swing the bats a little bit.
"They're definitely going to make it tough on you, especially in a four-game series. They're going to find one of the games where they're going to put something together."
The last time the Cubs had a two-game win streak was June 8-9, and they lost June 10 to the Phillies. Zambrano started that game, too.
"The last time in Philly, we won two in a row and it was up to me to get the third game in a row and today, too, and I couldn't do it," Zambrano said. "At the same time, I have to keep my head up and keep pitching. Sooner or later, this streak will come again."
A little winning streak would definitely help.
"You always want to continue to win, and every single game you win it gets, I think, a little easier to win the next game and you build that confidence," Johnson said. "That's what we're searching for.
"We're searching for a winning streak where we can get four, five, six games where everybody is really pulling in the same direction and fighting for the same goal. It's not that we're not now, but the concentration level gets more intense when you've got a nice streak on the line."
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.