MILWAUKEE -- The Cubs' winning streak ended, and they may be 13 games back, but they're battling as if they're still in the race. Insane? No. Just ask Mike Quade and his players.
"People think we're crazy when we say we don't believe we're out of it," Chicago's Jeff Baker said. "You're playing everybody in front of you [in the division]. If we can win series, we'll slowly make up ground, and come September, see where we're at. For us, it's just playing better, playing well."
The Cubs will need more offense than they mustered against the Brewers on Tuesday night. Casey McGehee hit a go-ahead, two-run triple to spark Milwaukee to a 3-2 victory and snap Chicago's win streak at three. Ryan Dempster (7-8) took the loss, only his fourth in 23 starts against Milwaukee.
"We all know what Dempster's done to us in the past," McGehee said, "and it was huge for us to try and get back in it before he settled in too much."
Tuesday marked the start of the Cubs' 10-game road trip against the three teams bunched at the top of the National League Central -- the Brewers, Cardinals and Pirates. The Cubs may trail the trio by double digits, but Quade is looking on the bright side.
"Why not? Time will take care of all the prognostications," Quade said. "I'm not a lunatic. There's a lot of work to do ahead of us. But we're playing the right clubs, and let's see if we can't put something together."
They have to take advantage of situations like one that presented itself in the sixth inning. The Cubs loaded the bases with nobody out against Chris Narveson (7-6), but Kameron Loe took over and got Alfonso Soriano to hit into a forceout. Loe then got Darwin Barney to ground into a double play.
"The sixth inning -- it boils down to the sixth," Quade said. "Bases loaded, nobody out. That was the game, I think."
The Cubs nearly got a break that inning, as McGehee failed to touch third base and get the force at third on Soriano's grounder.
"I didn't really want to take my eyes off the throw, to make sure I touched it," McGehee said. "The first objective there is trying to get the guy at the plate -- and anything after that is kind of extra, so I wanted to make sure I didn't take my eyes off him and make a good throw home."
Chicago didn't need much.
"Getting the ball out of the infield in that situation would've been huge," Quade said.
The Cubs may have a chance if they can continue to get good pitching. In his last start against the Phillies, Dempster threw 86 pitches over three innings. On Tuesday, he gave up three runs on seven hits over six innings, throwing 102 pitches. He also helped himself with some slick glove work, fielding line drives by Braun in the third and fifth, but took the loss, ending a six-game win streak against the Brewers.
It was the eighth quality start by a Cubs pitcher in the last 11 games, and the team is now 5-3 in those games.
Aramis Ramirez belted his 19th homer of the season -- and ninth this month, most in the Major Leagues -- with one out and one on in the first to give Chicago a 2-0 lead. Ramirez raised his July total to 22 RBIs. The Cubs now have scored 57 runs in the first inning, their most productive inning.
But they've now given up 83 runs in the first, the most by any team. The Brewers added to that number, as Corey Hart doubled to lead off and scored one out later on Ryan Braun's double to right. Prince Fielder singled, and one out later, he and Braun scored on McGehee's triple, also to right, to go ahead, 3-2. That was it.
"I didn't think at the end of the inning that would be the difference," Dempster said. "They did a good job of pitching, we did a good job of pitching. We just couldn't score any more runs."
Before the game, the Cubs showed their fighting spirit, as Marlon Byrd got into a shouting match with a fan behind the dugout.
"That's just him playing," Quade said of Byrd. "He's been swinging the bat good. He's a fighter when he gets pumped up. That's just back and forth banter. I don't think it's frustration. I think Marlon feels pretty good right now and is playing well, and isn't going to listen to anybody else."
"We just lost a close game, a very close game," said Byrd. "We're trying to get back in it. We've got a 10-game road trip against top teams in our division. I'm worried about the game, not a fan that was yelling."
The Cubs aren't encouraging the players to engage the fans that way.
"Let me do that," Quade said.
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.