MILWAUKEE -- Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks has put on a few pounds since last season, and admits it isn't all muscle. But he still can run -- fast enough to take third base on a wild pitch, then slide home headfirst to complete a thrilling ninth-inning rally.
It remains to be seen if Weeks can outrun past criticism of his inconsistent fielding and hitting. But with a new manager comes a clean slate, and Ken Macha liked what he saw in Milwaukee's home opener, a 4-3 victory over the division rival Chicago Cubs on Friday.
"What I've seen from Rickie, he's played very well," Macha said. "He pretty much won the game today for us."
Weeks made a couple of nice plays in the field early on, then played a critical role in Milwaukee's rally from a one-run deficit off new Cubs closer Kevin Gregg.
Cubs backup catcher Koyie Hill, whose sixth-inning homer gave the Cubs the lead, spiked the ball into the ground after the final play and appeared to bark at an umpire -- showing the intensity of a division rivalry, even in April.
Cubs manager Lou Piniella would later say that he thought the call was good, and Hill regretted his reaction.
"That was the wrong way to act about it," Hill said. "I was talking to teammates about that. You get caught up in it sometimes. We wished things had gone a little differently."
It couldn't have gone much better for Weeks, who hopes experience pays off this season.
"The more you grow into the game, the more things slow down," he said.
Weeks also has grown physically, putting on at least 15 pounds in the offseason. But he noted that maybe three to five pounds of that is muscle.
"So are you saying that's 12 pounds of fat?" new Brewers starter Braden Looper playfully jabbed in a postgame news conference.
The Cubs appeared to be on their way to victory after Hill hit his go-ahead, two-run homer in the sixth and starter Rich Harden struck out 10 over six innings. But Piniella quickly lost patience as his bullpen issued five walks in the last three innings.
"We can't walk as many people as we did from the seventh inning on," Piniella said. "You can't do it. You'll lose. Get the ball over the plate, make the other team beat you. Period."
Carlos Villanueva (1-0) worked a hitless inning for the win.
The late rally helped Milwaukee shake off a rough start to the season. The Brewers didn't look much like last year's NL wild card winners in dropping two of three games at San Francisco.
"We get paid to entertain, so we want to make it interesting," Braun said.
After an evening game Thursday, the Brewers arrived back in Milwaukee early Friday morning and faced a quick turnaround for the afternoon start. Hart said he got caught in traffic trying to make his way to Miller Park for the game, throwing off his preparation routine.
But Macha didn't want to make too much of the team's travel hassles.
"That's just part of the game," he said.
Looper was fairly sharp in his first start with the Brewers, giving up one run in five innings despite issuing four walks. Looper, who signed with Milwaukee as a free agent and missed much of spring training because of a tight left oblique muscle, gave up five hits while striking out four.
Looper said his side feels fine, but still didn't feel like he had his best stuff.
"I just told myself to back off, and almost throw it as soft as I can," Looper said.
Milwaukee took a 2-0 lead with an RBI single by Braun in the first inning and a solo homer by Hart in the third. Milton Bradley then led off the fourth with a home run deep onto a walkway in right-center field for his first hit with the Cubs.
After retiring the first two batters he faced in the sixth inning, Brewers reliever Seth McClung watched Hill smack a 2-1 pitch into the Brewers' bullpen in left-center.
Weeks then helped McClung out of a jam in the seventh, snagging a sharply hit grounder and throwing to first with runners on first and second and two outs.
- Piniella said C Geovany Soto was not likely to play in the three-game series because of tendinitis in his right shoulder, but should be available in a few days.
- Macha said injured closer Trevor Hoffman had a throwing session Thursday and was "getting closer" to throwing off a mound.
- Wisconsin native Jeff Skiles, co-pilot of the US Airways flight that successfully ditched in the Hudson River, threw out the first pitch.