MILWAUKEE — The music still played in the Cubs’ clubhouse after a tough-looking loss Monday, the volume a little lower and the Bob Marley strains more subdued than a victory mix.
Beyond that, however, it was a lot harder to be sure the Cubs had lost than it was to be sure the Brewers had won, based on the emotions running through the clubhouses after the Brewers’ dramatic 4-3 victory on a smash to third by Christian Yelich with the bases loaded in the ninth inning.
‘‘I can totally live with that,’’ said Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, who was the target of immediate Twitter-cism for his decision to go where his momentum took him, step on third and try for an inning-ending double play rather than throw to the plate. ‘‘It was a great play; it just happened to not work out in my favor. But if it did, I look like a hero. It’s funny how this works.’’
Even after Yelich beat the throw to first and set the Brewers off on a playoff-like celebration, the Cubs still had a four-game lead in the National League Central with 25 to play. And the rotation still had a 2.26 ERA in the last 18 games.
Even after Carl Edwards Jr. walked Ryan Braun to load the bases in the eighth, then walked Mike Moustakas to force home the tying run, then got ejected — joining already-ejected manager Joe Maddon — the Cubs still had the best record in the league.
And even after Steve Cishek hit two batters and walked another in the ninth to set the stage for Yelich, the Cubs finished the day 10-4 more than halfway through a 23-games-in-23-days grind.
‘‘I think we know what’s at stake,’’ said newcomer Cole Hamels, who pitched another six strong innings and has a 1.00 ERA in seven starts with the Cubs. ‘‘If you look at the way that we’ve been playing, this is — what? — the third loss in two weeks. That’s where you really just kind of look at it as we lost a tough one to a good team. But we do know how to come out tomorrow, and we do know how to turn the page and accomplish what we need to accomplish.’’
Whether that’s simply the difference between a two-time defending division champion with 17 World Series veterans and a less tested team trying to get there, it probably says at least as much about how well the Cubs are positioned.
‘‘Obviously, we’ve done it a few times,’’ said first baseman Anthony Rizzo, whose two-run home run in the eighth — the first by a left-handed hitter against lefty Josh Hader — gave the Cubs a short-lived lead. ‘‘But we don’t ever take it for granted.’’
Hamels, who played for the Phillies and Rangers before the Cubs acquired him in July, doesn’t even seem to see this as a rivalry series.
‘‘That’s kind of tough because I know the rivalries that I’ve had in the past, you can definitely feel it,’’ he said, referring to fisticuffs-caliber series between the Phillies and Mets when those fan bases had something at stake. ‘‘When you have a majority of Cubs fans in the stands, I don’t know if that’s a rivalry yet. I’ve been in rivalries. They’re not going to like me for the comment, but you can look at ticket sales.’’
Rivalry? Not a rivalry? Tough loss? Emotional? Personal?
‘‘It was a fun atmosphere,’’ Rizzo said of the Cubs-partisan, 44,000-strong vibe at Miller Park. ‘‘It was good to get smacked in the face a little bit. Not everything’s going to go our way all the time. We fought back; we just came up short.’’
Somebody turn up the Bob Marley.