By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Apr 26, 2010 at 4:18 PM
Baseball is a fickle game.

On Friday, the Brewers walked into Miller Park, ready to open a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs, feeling pretty good. They were back home for the first time in 10 days and just finished off a three-game sweep of the Pirates, during which they outscored the Pirates, 36-1 -- including a 20-0 romp on getaway day.

Quickly, those good feelings went away and, next thing the Brewers knew, they had been swept by the Cubs, managing just four runs against Chicago's 25.

"The Cubs pretty much handed it to us," manager Ken Macha said after Sunday's 12-2 loss.

Brewers pitchers threw 18 scoreless innings against the Pirates but that streak came to a quick halt Friday night, when Jeff Suppan was tagged for three runs in the first inning and gave up five in a 4 1/3 inning outing.

On Saturday, Doug Davis -- who opened with two disastrous outings -- recovered somewhat, allowing just two runs over 6 1/3 innings, in a 5-1 loss but Sunday, Dave Bush allowed nine runs (seven earned) on 10 hits, including four home runs, and couldn't make it out of the fourth inning.

The offense did little to help the situation, especially the heart of the lineup. In Pittsburgh, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder combined to go 10-for-23 with three homers and 12 runs batted in. Against Chicago, the duo had just three hits in 20 chances.

Milwaukee managed just one hit in 20 chances with runners in scoring position over the final two games of the series.

"This is embarrassing in a way," said outfielder Jim Edmonds. "We're just not playing well."

The sweep leaves Milwaukee at 8-10, three games behind St. Louis in the National League Central. Macha has no plans to close the clubhouse doors and hold a team meeting. He's confident that things will turn around; that the three games against Chicago were an aberration.

"I'm not a fan of that. Everybody knows what happened and I think we'll be fine. We have to turn the page. We can't let this have an effect on us."

The Pirates and Brewers open a three-game series Monday at Miller Park, but there are no guarantees that the results will mimic those of last week.

"There's always room for improvement," Edmonds said. "No matter what you do the day before, you got to come out the next day and prove it all over again."

Narveson in, Suppan out: Many wondered how many chances beleaguered starter Jeff Suppan would get before a change was made in the rotation. Those curious now have their answer: two.

After his performance Friday, Suppan was removed from the rotation, giving lefty Chris Narveson a chance to start.

In two starts since returning from the disabled list, Suppan is 0-1 with an 8.68 earned run average. He's allowed nine earned runs on 16 hits in 9 1/3 innings, walking six and striking out three.

"He's had two starts, neither one of them quality, and we've pretty much had to go into the bullpen early in both games," Macha said. "That kind of stuff hampers you."

The manager said Suppan took the news in an "extremely professional" manner.

"He said he'd help the club any way that he could," Macha said.

Narveson, meanwhile, gets the nod in large part because of his contributions late last season and performance during Spring Training.

Last September, he pitched well enough to get his name into the discussion, finishing with a 2-0 record with a 2.48 ERA in four starts and 12 overall appearances. In Cactus League play, he made a strong case for a starting job with 13 scoreless innings of work, allowing 10 hits with 13 strikeouts.

He hasn't been quite as sharp during the regular season (7.20 ERA) but has gotten key outs pitching out of the bullpen and will have a chance to show what he can do, beginning Wednesday afternoon against Pittsburgh.

If Narveson can't stake claim to the shot, Manny Parra would be the next logical choice. The left-hander has only made seven appearances this season, but hasn't scored a run in 7 2/3 innings of work.

He threw two scoreless innings Friday against Chicago and has eight strikeouts to just one walk.

Growing pains: More than anything, defense was Alcides Escobar's calling card as one of the organization's top prospects. 

Escobar, though, is still adjusting to the majors. He's made five of the Brewers' 13 errors this season. Those numbers aren't surprising to Macha.

"He's done exactly what we probably expected," Macha said. "He's made some good plays and made some easy errors."

"That's what you're going get here for a while. He's had a couple bad throws where he's gotten the ball and he looks at the runner instead of concentrating on getting his feet under him and making the throw."

Much like his predecessor, J.J. Hardy and double-play partner Rickie Weeks did before him, Escobar is taking extra work on his fielding, under the watchful eye of bench coach Willie Randolph.

"I feel better every day," Escobar said.

Escobar is faring alright at the plate, hitting .274 (17-for-62) and has a .318 on-base percentage.

For the lead: With 26 hits, Ryan Braun is just two behind Atlanta's Martin Prado for the National League lead.

Braun became just the third Brewers player to lead the league in hits when he finished with 203 last season. He's attempting to become the first National League player since Tony Gwynn in '94 and '95 to repeat.

Macha wouldn't be surprised if it happened.

"If he stays healthy, he's got the ability to be very, very, very special," Macha said. 

Southpaw struggles: The Brewers are not faring well against left-handers, hitting just .240 this season. Left-handed batters postinga measly .173 average. Even Prince Fielder, a left-hander himself who went .292 against lefties last season, is struggling; he's hitting just .160 against southpaws this season.

Quick hits: Bush's 10 home runs are the most allowed by a National League pitcher ... Kosuke Fukudome has a .349 batting average with six homers and 25 RBI against the Brewers ... The Cubs swept the Brewers for the first time since Aug. 23-25, 2004 at Wrigley Field and the first time in Milwaukee since September 5-7, 2003 ... Ryan Dempster is 13-3 with a 2.80 ERA in 41 career appearances (19 starts) against Milwaukee ...The Brewers are 14-for-15 in stolen base attempts this season and have been successful in each of their last 11 attempts.... The Pirates have three players / coaches with Wisconsin ties: reliever Jack Taschner is a Milwaukee native and played at UW-Oshkosh, catcher Jason Jaramillo was born in Racine and lives in Franksville and bench coach Gary Varshoa was born in Marshfield, lives in Chili and played at UW-Oshkosh ... The Pirates have lost 21 straight games at Miller Park.

On the farm: Down at Class AAA Nashville, Kameron Loe threw eight scoreless innings and struck out four Thursday against Oklahoma City. He's got a 3.70 ERA on the year ... LHP Chris Capuano was reinstated from the Class AAA disabled list and will report to Class A Brevard County. Caupano, attempting a comeback from his second "Tommy John" surgery, will start Tuesday against Clearwater.

He said it: "They were hitting Prince last year, and now they're hitting Rickie. Those are the wrong guys to be hitting, I'll say that. I would pick somebody else out."-- Macha, on Brewers hitters being plunked a league-leading 14 times.

This week: The Pirates are in town for three games at Miller Park, beginning Monday night when Yovani Gallardo faces off against lefty Zach Duke. Randy Wolf (2-1, 3.70) gets the nod on Tuesday (Pittsburgh starter, TBA) with Narveson set to face Paul Maholm (1-2, 4.74 on Wednesday). After that, it's off to the West Coast to open a three-city road trip with four games in San Diego.

Attendance (through nine home dates): Total -- 348,188; Average -- 38,688; Sellouts -- 3.