CHICAGO — Right after Tommy La Stella struck out swinging for the final out, Jeremy Jeffress pounded his glove with his right hand and Erik Kratz pumped his right arm in jubilation.
Forget about the wild-card standings. The Milwaukee Brewers are fighting for the NL Central title.
Lorenzo Cain had four hits, Mike Moustakas scored on Carl Edwards Jr.’s wild pitch in the sixth inning and the Brewers beat the Chicago Cubs 3-2 on Monday night to move within one game of the division leaders.
“That’s a great team over there. They’re not going to go away,” Moustakas said. “They’re not going to just give it up, so we’ve got to go out there every single day, keep fighting, keep grinding and go to win a ballgame each and every night.”
Orlando Arcia and Jonathan Schoop each drove in a run as Milwaukee (83-62) won for the seventh time in eight games. It’s the closest the Brewers have been to the division lead since they trailed the Cubs by a game on Aug. 5.
Milwaukee also battled Chicago for the NL Central title last season, but the Cubs pulled away down the stretch and the Brewers missed the playoffs. It looks as if the returning Brewers learned from what happened in 2017.
“I think being in the moment a year later helps these guys,” manager Craig Counsell said. “You know how you feel because you feel different in these moments.”
Wade Miley (4-2) pitched five effective innings before Corbin Burnes, Josh Hader and Jeffress closed it out for wild card-leading Milwaukee. Burnes worked a scoreless sixth, Hader struck out six straight batters and Jeffress got three outs for his 11th save.
Back home after a soggy weekend in Washington, Chicago (83-60) lost for the fifth time in seven games. Ben Zobrist had two of the Cubs’ five hits, and Kris Bryant drove in a run.
“We’ve just not been making that kind of hard contact that we’re capable of,” manager Joe Maddon said. “So more than anything, that was tonight. You can dice it up any way you want, but just to score two runs again — we have to be more offensively.”
The game was tied at 2 when Maddon and a trainer came out to check on Jon Lester after the left-hander retired the first two batters in the sixth. Lester (15-6) stayed in the game after a short conversation, and the Brewers pounced.
Moustakas singled and Kratz doubled to right, putting runners on second and third. Lester then departed with lower back tightness, and Moustakas scampered home when Edwards missed badly on his first pitch to Arcia .
Moustakas said third base coach Ed Sedar told him to be on the lookout for a wild pitch.
“It happened and I was able to get down there and ended up scoring,” Moustakas said, “so it worked out pretty well for us.”
Lester allowed eight hits, struck out seven and walked two in his first loss since Aug. 11. The All-Star said he thinks his back will be fine.
“It’s not anything painful, just kind of uncomfortable,” he said. “After I got out of the game and came up here, I felt a lot better, and hopefully tomorrow will be the same.”
WORK, WORK, WORK
Chicago is in the midst of 30 straight game days after Sunday’s series finale at Washington was rained out and rescheduled for Thursday. But Hurricane Florence is bearing down on the East Coast and the Cubs sound as if they are hoping for another postponement.
“It’s (Major League Baseball’s) call on something like this,” president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. “Our voices have certainly have been heard, but we don’t have any control.”
ALL IN GOOD FUN
Brewers bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel drew some boos and a few cheers from fans in the bleachers at Wrigley Field when he took off his warmup top before the game, revealing an Aaron Rodgers jersey. Rodgers directed the Green Bay Packers to a 24-23 comeback victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday night.
Cubs: OF Kyle Schwarber’s back is bothering him “a little bit,” according to Maddon. ... OF Jason Heyward (right hamstring tightness) ran on the field before the game. Asked if he will be able to play this month, Heyward responded: “We’ll see. I’m just saying — I’m going to do everything necessary, obviously, to be smart about it. But I plan on playing baseball.” ... Chicago closer Brandon Morrow (right biceps inflammation) played catch. He likely will have another bullpen session in the next couple of days. ... LHP Drew Smyly, who had Tommy John surgery in July 2017, will not return this season. Smyly is fine, but Epstein said the team ran out of time to bring him back.
Brewers right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (14-6, 3.59 ERA) and Cubs lefty Jose Quintana (12-9, 4.14 ERA) square off again Tuesday night. Quintana beat Chacin in their previous matchup, pitching two-run ball into the seventh inning of Chicago’s 6-4 victory last Wednesday. Quintana is 5-2 with a 1.78 ERA in nine career starts against Milwaukee.