CHICAGO (AP) - While the Milwaukee Brewers are pretty certain that their immediate future will include a playoff berth, the outlook is as uncertain as ever for the Chicago Cubs.
Shaun Marcum threw eight strong innings and the Brewers moved a step closer to the NL Central championship with a 5-1 win over the Cubs on Tuesday night.
As their NL Central foe chills champagne for an inevitable celebration, the Cubs face the specter of their home finale on Wednesday, during which they may be missing a key piece.
Aramis Ramirez left Tuesday's game after the sixth inning because of a mild strain in his right quad. He's listed as day to day, but didn't sound too optimistic about playing Wednesday.
``I guess I have to wait and see tomorrow, but right now it doesn't feel good,' Ramirez said. ``Hopefully I'll play before the end of the season.'
Ramirez has a club option on his contract for the 2012 season and if the Cubs decline as expected, Tuesday may have been his final home game at Wrigley Field after 8 1/2 years with the team. After the game, Ramirez seemed resigned to that possibility.
``I'm a free agent and right now I don't know what's going to happen,' Ramirez said.
As he's done repeatedly, Ramirez again insisted that he wants to remain with the Cubs.
``I've been saying that all along,' Ramirez said. ``That's no secret. But it doesn't look that way. At least we haven't heard anything.'
Former Cubs general manager Jim Hendry spent some time on the field before the game chatting with players, coaches and media. Hendry was fired on Aug. 19 after more than 16 years with the organization, including over nine years as the team's GM. His permanent replacement has not been hired, muddying Ramirez's situation.
``We don't have a GM so I don't know who you talk to,' Ramirez said.
The veteran third baseman was part of a lineup that mustered just five hits and one run against Marcum (13-7), who chipped in at the plate by doubling and scoring during Milwaukee's four-run third inning. The tone was very different in the Milwaukee clubhouse.
``I think everybody is excited but we're still taking it one game at a time,' Marcum said. ``We're not looking ahead to see when everything can happen. Just looking to go out tomorrow and try to get another win.'
Chicago's Randy Wells (7-5) allowed six hits and five runs in five innings.
``The biggest mistake I made was that I kind of got stubborn,' Wells said. ``Kind of went away from what me and (catcher Geovany Soto) talked about.'
The only damage against Marcum came on Starlin Castro's leadoff homer in the sixth. Castro has reached base in 33 straight games, the longest such streak by a Cubs shortstop since Woody English in 1929. Castro has 336 career hits, surpassing Glenn Beckert's franchise record for hits by a player in his first two seasons (post-1900).
The NL hits leader now has 197 on the season, three shy of becoming the youngest player in Cubs history to record a 200-hit season.
``I'm hoping (Castro) gets 200 hits here at home,' Ramirez said. ``He's still got one more game tomorrow. He's got three hits to go. Hopefully he'll come out tomorrow and have a good game.'
Darwin Barney doubled twice for the Cubs, who have been relegated to chasing statistical goals for most of the second half of the season.
``Some kind of a season,' Cubs manager Mike Quade said about Castro. ``I'll take 3 for 3 with a walk (tomorrow).'
NOTES: Brewers 1B Prince Fielder walked twice and surpassed the 100-walk mark for the third straight season. ... Cubs special assistant to the general manager Gary Hughes resigned on Tuesday, effective Oct. 31. The scouting guru has been with the organization since 2002 and has spent 44 years in professional baseball, working with a total of nine different franchises. ... Matt Garza will start the Cubs' home finale on Wednesday, his first start since throwing a career-high 124 pitches in a complete-game no decision against Houston on Sept. 16. He'll face Randy Wolf, who is 1-1 with a 1.37 ERA in three starts against Chicago this season.
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