MILWAUKEE -- The Cubs have been relying on their starting pitching lately and on Sunday, the offense came to life.
Ian Stewart and Reed Johnson each hit solo home runs, Alfonso Soriano added an RBI double, and the Cubs added three insurance runs in the ninth to post an 8-2 win over the Brewers and avoid a sweep.
Dale Sveum has won games in Milwaukee as a player, as a coach and as an interim manager, and finally picked up his first win on his former home turf as a full-time manager. The Cubs are 2-5 against the Brewers, with the other win coming in an April series at Wrigley Field. The win also ended a 10-game losing streak at Miller Park.
"That would've been a tough sweep," Sveum said of the possibility. "That was a pretty well-played game. ... It was well-played, well-pitched, didn't walk many guys, and obviously, some long balls and some slugging percentage added on, too."
Milwaukee tallied in the fourth, but Stewart -- using a pink Louisville Slugger to honor his mom -- tied the game at 1 with one out in the fifth when he drove an 0-2 pitch from Marco Estrada to right for his fourth home run. The blast snapped an 0-for-16 skid, and was his first hit since a solo homer on May 7 against the Braves.
"I've been feeling good for a long time now," Stewart said. "Today was a day where I got more good pitches to hit and they were able to fall for me. They haven't been as of late. I've been saying that as long as I feel good up there and hit the ball hard, they'll come around. They usually come in bunches. Hopefully, that's pretty soon."
Starter Jeff Samardzija was pulled after 91 pitches over five innings. It was perfect timing as Johnson hit his first homer of the season to go ahead 2-1. It was Johnson's fourth career pinch-hit homer.
"I knew [Samardzija] was up there pitch count-wise, and there was a chance," Johnson said of his pinch-hit opportunity. "Any time we have a leadoff situation, that's usually my at-bat as well. You just go in there and try to put a good swing on it, and that's all I was trying to do."
It's always nice when a manager makes a move and it works.
"You think?" Sveum quipped.
The Brewers tied the game with two outs in the sixth, but the Cubs took advantage of mistakes in the seventh and eighth. With one out in the seventh, Stewart doubled and one out later Darwin Barney hit a grounder to Saturday's hero shortstop Edwin Maysonet, whose throw sailed over Taylor Green into the photographer's well near the Brewers dugout. Stewart scored on the error.
Tony Campana tallied on a wild pitch by Manny Parra in the eighth and Soriano added an RBI double. The Cubs batted around in the ninth, scoring on an RBI double by Geovany Soto and RBI singles by Campana and Starlin Castro.
For Samardzija, it was another learning experience.
"Give their lineup some kudos," Samardzija said. "They battled and made me throw a lot of pitches and kept fouling balls off. It was one of those outings where I had to make some pitches. I was in a situation where we had to work. Obviously, I'd like to pitch deeper in the game, but the bullpen pitched great and the offense gave us runs early -- and that's all that matters."
Sveum said it wasn't a tough decision to pull Samardzija at that point.
"I wouldn't say tough, no," Sveum said. "He was at 90 pitches. He pitched well, numbers-wise. The ball was up and you could tell it wasn't coming out of his hand like you know it can. Time to pinch-hit, time to take a shot, the bullpen was rested."
Samardzija did mix his pitches well. His teammates noticed.
"You could tell by the reaction of the other hitters and some of the at-bats the hitters were taking that he was keeping them off balance," Johnson said. "He wasn't just pumping all fastballs, but mixing it up so they can't sit back and tee off."
Johnson knows. He faced Samardzija in Spring Training and the right-hander was tough then.
Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke, who has lost Chris Narveson, Alex Gonzalez and Mat Gamel to injuries, called it a good weekend for his team.
"Today, we were in it for six innings, and then we let it slip away," Roenicke said. "It's that consistency that I talk about. If we can't find that rhythm, get the offense and the defense synched together, until we do that, we're going to be inconsistent."
The same is true for the Cubs, who have had a tough time stringing hits together this season. They did so on Sunday.
"It makes it even better on Mother's Day that your mom's watching, and my wife's probably watching and my wife's mom is probably watching," Stewart said. "That was cool."
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.