MILWAUKEE — When things are going well, everything seems easy. But when they aren’t, everything becomes a challenge.
The Cubs often have found themselves in the latter category in the last month, and their series finale Wednesday against the Brewers was no different.
The Cubs have been in the midst of a monthlong struggle and officially hit rock-bottom in their last game of June. Not only did their 15-7 loss Wednesday give the Brewers a three-game sweep and push the Cubs six games off the pace in the National League Central, but it was easily their worst loss of the season.
Manager David Ross had said repeatedly that the series against the Brewers wouldn’t define the Cubs’ season. But the meltdown Wednesday felt like a culmination of the last month.
‘‘Bad ending to not our best road trip,’’ Ross said of a trip that also featured losses in the last three games of a four-game series against the Dodgers. ‘‘Definitely an emotional roller coaster during that game. . . . I think we all have to be better.’’
After draining losses to the Brewers on Monday and Tuesday, it looked early as though the Cubs would be on their way to a blowout victory. The offense that had struggled to find big hits all series came through in the first inning, turning Brewers starter Aaron Ashby’s major-league debut into a nightmare.
The Cubs got two hits from Patrick Wisdom, a hit apiece from Willson Contreras, Javy Baez and Eric Sogard, three walks and two stolen bases in a seven-run first.
But that was the last positive as things quickly spiraled out of control.
‘‘They’re pretty hot right now,’’ Baez said of the Brewers. ‘‘They just came back, and every inning they scored.’’
Cubs starter Jake Arrieta struggled despite being spotted a 7-0 lead. He allowed a run in the first before the Brewers scored five in the second, chasing him from the game after only 1‰ innings. Arrieta finished with an 8.31 ERA in June.
‘‘I had an opportunity to end that,’’ Arrieta said. ‘‘Jumped out to an early lead and just performed poorly. Nobody’s gonna feel sorry for us.’’
With the Cubs clinging to a 7-6 lead, Jace Peterson ignited a big fourth inning with a two-run single that gave the Brewers an 8-7 lead. They never would trail again.
Not only did the Brewers go on to score eight runs in the inning, but they scored 15 unanswered runs overall. It was only the second time in 50 seasons a team had scored seven runs in the first and lost by seven or more runs.
‘‘Everything that can go wrong has gone wrong for us lately,’’ Arrieta said. ‘‘It’s been tough. I didn’t get the job done, period. . . . This one’s on my shoulders. There’s no way around it.’’
When June began, the Cubs were riding high after a red-hot May and were at the top of the division and feeling good about their next stretch, even though they were facing some of the best teams in the majors. But after a 12-16 month, several key injuries and now a six-game deficit in the division, it feels as though things have begun to slip away.
The day off Thursday couldn’t have come at a better time for the Cubs. Their short- and long-term future will be determined in next four weeks leading up to the trade deadline. They will have to figure out whom they are as a ballclub and whom they want to be.