Brimming with confidence and sending Jon Lester to the mound, the Chicago Cubs appear poised to continue their surge.
As the left-hander looks to win a fourth straight decision, the Cubs try to sweep this three-game series from the lowly Milwaukee Brewers with a season-high seventh straight victory Thursday at Wrigley Field.
After Hector Rondon blew a save in the ninth inning, Miguel Montero homered in the 10th to give Chicago (64-48) its 12th win in the last 13 games, 3-2 on Wednesday. Owners of a 4 1/2-game lead for the NL's second wild-card spot, the Cubs last won seven straight in 2011.
''When we come to the ballpark now, we know we're going to win,'' said Montero, who is 3 for 12 in four games since missing almost a month with a sprained left thumb.
The Cubs, 1 1/2 games behind Pittsburgh for the top wild-card spot, were limited to four hits for the second time in the last three games but continue to get strong pitching. Chicago's posted a 2.46 ERA over the last 13 contests and has struck out 22 while walking two in the first two of this set.
"Guys have energy, guys have excitement to be in this position," Lester told MLB's official website. "You've got that excitement of every single day, we've got a chance."
Lester (7-8, 3.22 ERA) allowed two runs in seven innings of Friday's 7-3 victory over San Francisco to improve to 3-0 with a 1.84 ERA in four starts since the All-Star break.
"Right now, he's turning into the metronome that he is," manager Joe Maddon said about Lester, who has completed at least seven innings in his last seven starts. "You're going to see those kind of performances and it doesn't surprise me."
Lester enjoyed one of his best outings as a Cub on May 1, when he gave up three hits in seven innings of a 1-0 home victory over Milwaukee.
Ryan Braun, who is 3 for 10 with a double against Lester, hit his 250th homer as the Brewers (48-67) dropped their sixth straight to Chicago.
"(The Cubs are) on a roll right now," Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said. "At times, you play teams during different stretches, and this is a team that's playing well, playing with a lot of confidence right now. Everything is going their way. We have to upset that somehow."
Dealing with a lower-back issue, Braun had three hits Wednesday after going 0 for 9 in the previous three contests. His next home run will tie him with Robin Yount for the franchise lead.
Making his fourth career start, Tyler Cravy (0-3, 5.40) looked strong Friday until he allowed all six runs in his fifth and final inning of a 6-0 defeat to St. Louis. It was the right-hander's first major league appearance in a month after being recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs to replace the demoted Kyle Lohse in the rotation.
"Obviously, I'm thankful for the opportunity," Cravy said. "I'll just go out every fifth day or whenever they want me to go out there and give it everything I've got that day. I'm not going to hold anything back, really. Just throw each day like it's your last."
He'll try to handle rookie Kris Bryant, who is batting .310 in his last nine games and has hit 13 of his 16 home runs at Wrigley.