Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun is greeted in the dugout after hitting a solo home run off Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jason Hammel during the fourth inning of a baseball game Friday, July 22, 2016, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Benny Sieu)
Benny Sieu
July 22, 2016

MILWAUKEE (AP) Watching Dexter Fowler jog out to play center field for the first time in more than a month made Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon smile.

His swing looked even better to the Cubs.

Fowler led off the first with a homer and drove in three runs in his first game back from the disabled list, powering Chicago to a 5-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night.

''How about it? Just right out of the gate, crushes the ball to center-field,'' Maddon said.

Fowler went 3 for 4 with a walk and scored twice after being sidelined with a strained right hamstring. His two-run double to left with the bases loaded in the second drew rousing cheers from the bevy of Cubs fans visiting Milwaukee.

Jason Hammel (9-5) allowed four hits and two runs over five-plus innings for his second victory since the All-Star break for NL Central-leading Chicago. He never trailed after Fowler slugged a 3-1 pitch from Jimmy Nelson (6-8) over the center-field wall to lead off the game.

''I was just happy to be back around the boys,'' Fowler said.

And they were glad to have him back, too. Fowler is just as important inside the clubhouse as he is on the field.

''I was watching him in center field between innings, and he's like laughing with Addison (Russell), and there goes Jason (Heyward) out to right field, and it just looked right,'' Maddon said. ''Of course he's good, what he brings to the table inside is really, really important.''

Hernan Perez had a run-scoring double for the Brewers, and Ryan Braun hit a solo homer.

There were so many fans in Chicago shirts that their boos drowned out cheers from Brewers backers when Braun stepped to the plate in fourth. Braun went deep to center on the first pitch of the at-bat from Hammel for his 14th homer of the year.

The Brewers wasted too many other opportunities, going 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position.

''The game every night's going to come down to hitting with runners in scoring position, certainly, and when you go 0 for 9, you're not going to put up big numbers,'' manager Craig Counsell said.

TURNING POINT

Hammel departed after allowing a leadoff double to Scooter Gennett in the sixth with the Brewers trailing 4-2. Reliever Carl Edwards Jr. then retired the Brewers' 3-4-5 hitters in order, capped by strikeouts of Jonathan Lucroy and Chris Carter on six pitches total.

WRIGLEY NORTH

By the end of the night, Miller Park felt more like Wrigley Field North after Hector Rondon pitched a scoreless ninth for his 17th save, getting Ramon Flores to fly out to the warning track in right with a runner on second.

Even pregame ceremonies had some Chicago flair when cornerback Charles ''Peanut'' Tillman, who retired earlier Friday after signing a one-day contract with the NFL's Bears, threw out a ceremonial first pitch.

NELSON'S NIGHT

Fowler finished a triple short of the cycle. He had two of the four hits allowed by Nelson, who walked three and allowed four runs - two unearned - in five innings.

The Cubs' three-run second started following a throwing error by Nelson after making a good play jumping high for a bouncer up the middle by Russell. Three batters later, Fowler hit his two-run double.

''It started off with me throwing the ball away, so I kind of did it myself there. That was pretty much the story,'' Nelson said.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Cubs: Fowler missed 27 games after going on the 15-day DL on June 19. ''Definitely got some rest. But, you never want to get the rest like this,'' he said before the game.

Brewers: OF Domingo Santana was making progress from his right elbow injury, Counsell said. The starting right fielder has been sidelined since June 8. ''We're getting close, certainly,'' Counsell said.

UP NEXT

Cubs: RHP John Lackey (7-6) is looking to overcome a tough five-start stretch, having gone 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA in that span.

Brewers: RHP Zach Davies (6-4) has turned into one of the team's top starters in his first full year in the majors. He is 6-1 with a 2.95 ERA over his last 13 starts.

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Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP

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