<
>

Suppan shuts down Cubs as Weeks, Kendall help Brewers roll

CHICAGO (AP) -- Incessant talk of the 100-year anniversary of the Chicago Cubs' last World Series title has already grown old and really has nothing to do with their 0-2 start in 2008.

Blame the early stumble on the Milwaukee Brewers and their talented young lineup, one featuring speed and power. And one that got a lift Wednesday from ex-Cub Jason Kendall.

"It's certainly not a good start," Chicago manager Lou Piniella said after Wednesday's 8-2 beating from the Brewers. "I told our baseball team they better be ready to play. I meant it. I wasn't joking around."

Piniella said Monday's 4-3, 10-inning loss to Milwaukee in the opener was a matter of getting beat.

"Today we didn't play well. One of the things we need to do here is play good defensive baseball and not give away runs," he said.

During Wednesday's loss, the Cubs made two errors, watched Milwaukee steal three bases and heard some boos at Wrigley Field. And as soon as it was over, Piniella announced he was already making a lineup change by moving Alfonso Soriano -- who is 0-for-9 -- back into the leadoff spot from No. 2 in the order.

"At this point whatever will make the team better I'm available," Soriano said.

The Brewers got some strong pitching from Jeff Suppan, who held Chicago to two runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings. Rickie Weeks homered on the game's first pitch and Kendall, who played 57 games for the Cubs last season, reached base five straight times.

"He's come in and worked hard to learn our pitching staff," Milwaukee manager Ned Yost said of the catcher. "What I really like about him is that his focus is on that pitcher and whatever he gives us offensively is gravy."

Kendall's gravy included a single, two doubles, two RBIs, a walk and a stolen base. Ryan Braun also had three hits in Milwaukee's 14-hit attack.

The Cubs were 8½ games back of the Brewers in late June last season after a slow start before overtaking Milwaukee to win the NL Central.

"We don't want to put ourselves in the position where we have to go from last to first" like last year, said Cubs shortstop Ryan Theriot, who will flip with Soriano in the batting order. "I don't think anybody is pushing the panic button."

Yost will take the early two-game cushion.

"It doesn't matter when you play," he said. "We lost the division by two games last year."

Piniella said his team isn't feeling the pressure already because of the high expectations.

"Pressing for what? We've only played a couple of games," Piniella said. "The concern is that we start playing better baseball and that's not even a concern -- that's what we need to do."

Suppan (1-0) gave up Lee's home run leading off the fourth on a 41-degree day and left after allowing Geovany Soto's home in the seventh.

Suppan also credited Kendall's work behind the plate.

"I think there have been quite a few I've worked with and as far as game calling, he's up there," Suppan said. "For the most part I was able to stay out of the middle and stay out of the big inning."

Salomon Torres relieved Suppan and, after consecutive one-out singles by Felix Pie and Mike Fontenot, retired Theriot on a flyout and struck out Soriano.

"It's only two games, not like a month or a month and a half," Soriano said of his early struggles. "I know who I am and I believe in myself."

Chicago starter Ted Lilly (0-1) gave up four runs and five hits in 4 2/3 innings.

Milwaukee took a 3-0 lead in the fourth when Braun doubled off Aramis Ramirez's glove at third, Bill Hall had an RBI single and Corey Hart delivered an RBI double.

Lee's first homer got a run back for the Cubs in the bottom half but Milwaukee drove out Lilly in the fifth when Kendall doubled, and Lilly hit Prince Fielder in the side with a two-out pitch. Braun greeted Kevin Hart with an RBI single for a 4-1 lead.

Fans started to boo the Cubs in the sixth when Milwaukee scored without a hit thanks to two walks, three stolen bases and a Soto's error.

Game notes
Part of Carlos Zambrano's problems with cramping is related to a low potassium level, Piniella said. Zambrano had to leave in the seventh Monday with a cramp in his right forearm. He's had similar problems with cramps in past seasons. Zambrano said he would have to drink more water. Piniella said his ace will have to eat more bananas. And the Cubs would also like Zambrano to cut back on his caffeine intake. ... Weeks' leadoff homer was his seventh.