MILWAUKEE -- Of all the National League Central teams to struggle against, the last one Dale Sveum wanted to see his Cubs lose to were the Brewers. Sveum was drafted by the team, had his best seasons with it and was on the coaching staff before he was named Chicago's manager.
But Wednesday, the Cubs lost, 7-0, to the Brewers to fall to 5-13 against their division rival with one game remaining.
"I'd be lying if I said it didn't [bother me]," Sveum said. "Of all teams to play bad against all the time, that's not the one you want to."
Chris Rusin had not given up more than four runs in any of his previous 11 starts with the Cubs this season, but Sean Halton matched that with one swing in the first inning. Halton belted an opposite-field grand slam, and Khris Davis added a solo shot to power the Brewers to victory, handing the Cubs their fifth straight loss.
Rusin entered the game with a 2.85 ERA over 11 starts, which was the lowest by any rookie left-handed starting pitcher in the Majors. However, his ERA is now 3.52 after giving up six runs over four innings.
"There were a couple pitches that changed the entire at-bat, and I couldn't make the pitches to get back in the count, and when I needed to make a pitch, I left it up, and they hit it out of the yard," Rusin said. "Those are the games you have to learn from. Keep the ball down is what I keep telling myself, but that first inning hurt the team and took the life out of us. As a starting pitcher, you don't want to do that to a club. You want to keep them on their toes."
With one out in the Brewers' first, Jean Segura walked and Jonathan Lucroy singled to set up Aramis Ramirez's RBI single. One out later, Davis walked to load the bases, and Halton cleared them with his first career grand slam to open a 5-0 lead. Rusin threw 30 pitches that inning, 15 for strikes.
"He obviously got the ball up a couple times in bad situations," Sveum said. "I think the walks were the biggest thing that happened in the first inning. He had a chance to get out of it, and then walked a guy, and Halton gets a 3-2 pitch up in his eyes and hits it out in the ballpark."
Davis made it 6-0 with a leadoff home run, his 10th, in the fourth off a 2-2 pitch from Rusin. It was the first time the lefty had served up two home runs in a start since July 2, when he made a spot start against the Athletics in place of Scott Feldman, who was traded to the Orioles. Rusin also gave up two homers for Triple-A Iowa on June 22 against Memphis.
"Today, I hung a changeup and Davis hit it out," Rusin said. "Halton, it was a high fastball. He put the bat on it, and the ball shot out of here. Obviously, both of those pitches were up, and both of those pitches were home runs."
Rusin had faced the Brewers' hitters in Triple-A this year. They remembered him.
"That guy [Rusin], he's a good pitcher," Halton said. "I faced him all the way up in the Minor Leagues, and he's had his days, believe me, where he's gotten me. If you let him settle in, you can easily look up in the seventh inning and have no runs and a couple of scattered hits. He's that kind of guy."
Carlos Gomez added an RBI double in the Brewers' fifth off Alberto Cabrera.
Chicago totaled four hits in the game, including two off starter Tyler Thornburg, who lasted six innings. The Cubs did not advance a runner to second against the right-hander, who struck out Anthony Rizzo twice and got him to hit into a fielder's choice in the sixth.
Rizzo is now 5-for-37 (.135) in his last 10 games with one home run, one double and two RBIs. He is batting .226 overall, which is not what the Cubs expected from their No. 3 hitter.
"You take the positives out of everything," Rizzo said. "I know I'm a good hitter. I know I can hit for average along with the power and RBIs. I know I can hit with runners in scoring position, which I haven't done. Maybe I'm putting a little too much pressure on myself, but I think in a couple weeks, when you get to relax and dissect everything, it'll be the best thing for me, and not just myself but everyone on this team."
Sveum acknowledged it was tough now for the players while wrapping up a disappointing season.
"You feel bad for them," he said. "I've been in those situations and those slumps, especially at this time of year when you're trying to finish good. It's not fun if you don't [finish well]."
Rizzo called this season a "good learning experience." He said he was not aware of Theo Epstein's comments Tuesday in which the Cubs president of baseball operations said Sveum was being evaluated and did not guarantee the manager would return next season.
"I think Dale has done a really good job this year, especially with Starlin [Castro] and I," Rizzo said. "Obviously, we didn't live up to what we're supposed to do, but that's the game of baseball."
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.