MILWAUKEE -- Don't hand the National League Central to the surging Cubs just yet.Brent Suter pitched a career-high seven scoreless innings, Anthony Swarzak survived a harrowing Brewers debut and Corey Knebel struck out Kyle Schwarber with the tying runner at third base to end Milwaukee's 2-1 win over the Cubs
MILWAUKEE -- Don't hand the National League Central to the surging Cubs just yet.
Brent Suter pitched a career-high seven scoreless innings, Anthony Swarzak survived a harrowing Brewers debut and Corey Knebel struck out Kyle Schwarber with the tying runner at third base to end Milwaukee's 2-1 win over the Cubs in front of 42,574 fans Friday night at sold-out Miller Park.
Manny Pina and Orlando Arcia delivered run-scoring groundouts to back that trio of pitchers, who pulled the Brewers back to within one-half game of the first-place Cubs in the National League Central. The teams entered their weekend showdown headed in opposite directions, with the Cubs winning eight of their previous 10 games, including three in a row, to overtake the Brewers, who had lost eight of their last 10, including two straight.
"We just could not get anything going against Suter," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He was outstanding, mixing speeds. He looked like he might have gone to an Ivy League college or something."
Suter did, actually. He went to Harvard.
• Crew's arms, led by Suter, deliver on big night
"I have to be honest, it feels good," Suter said. "It was probably one of the biggest starts of my life, and to come through for the team and get the team a win, it feels good."
The Brewers hit Cubs starter Jose Quintana hard in the first four of the left-hander's six innings and coaxed three walks, but they had little to show for it. Quintana surrendered only four hits and struck out six in his third Cubs start, yielding two runs. The Brewers put runners at second and third with no outs in the second and took a 1-0 lead on Pina's groundout. Then they loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth, but again mustered a lone run on Arcia's fielder's choice grounder. Milwaukee finished 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
• Quintana revels in first hit, quality start vs. Brewers
"They work good at-bats," Maddon said of the Brewers. "They don't expand their strike zone -- maybe one or two guys might. They're not expanders. You've got to throw a strike. It's almost like an [American League] East batting lineup. You have to get them out within the strike zone, and that's what's so interesting about their group."
Quintana's loss was the first hung on a Cubs starter since the All-Star break. They had started the second half 10-0.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Home run robbery: A Cubs misplay put the Brewers in business to start the third inning, before right fielder Jason Heyward made the play of the game. Center fielder Albert Almora Jr.s two-base error put Domingo Santana aboard for Ryan Braun, who lined an 0-1 fastball toward the wall in right. Heyward ran back to make a leaping catch, bringing the baseball back to take a two-run homer away from Braun and positioning Quintana to pitch a scoreless inning.
"I don't think anybody else catches that ball," Braun said. "High fly balls, guys have an opportunity to get to, but it was a line drive. I hit the ball hard. Clearly it would have been a home run, and he made an incredible catch. There's a reason he's won some Gold Gloves out there and continues to be one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball. Fortunately, we still won the game, but it was a huge play in that moment."
"He hits a lot of balls that way with authority, and always has," Heyward said. "You just have to be ready. Braun hits the ball 'oppo.'" More >
Baez homer halves the deficit: Swarzak, acquired in a Wednesday trade with the White Sox, made his Milwaukee debut in an eighth inning full of big moments. Taking over with a 2-0 lead, he hung his head when Addison Russell led off with a deep drive to right field, where Santana made a catch at the warning track. Swarzak's sense of relief was short-lived, however, as Baez crushed the very next pitch, a slider, a Statcast-projected 449 feet, where it smashed the windows of the club level high above left field. Swarzak also walked a batter, but he managed to preserve a 2-1 lead with an assist from third baseman Travis Shaw, who reached over the railing of the camera well next to the Cubs dugout to retire pinch-hitter Benjamin Zobrist and put the Brewers back on a path to escape.
"I had a clean inning and I made my own mess out there," Swarzak said. "It wasn't anyone's fault but my own."
Shaw's catch provided a big boost to get the Brewers through the inning.
"I didn't realize I had caught it, to be honest with you," Shaw said. "Looking on the replay, that's as far as I could reach. I kinda just felt something in there. If I'm not getting any hits, they're not getting any hits." More >
"It'll be cool and we're going to be playing our baseball. We can't be worried about the division, we have to worry about ourselves and play our game and go from there." -- Schwarber, on the Cubs' tight race this season to get a playoff spot
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Hernan Perez's hustle and Brewers manager Craig Counsell's winning challenge produced a run for the Brewers in the fourth inning. Perez hit a ground ball to Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo and dove headfirst into the bag as Quintana covered. The initial call was out, but that was overturned upon review. The Brewers went on to load the bases with no outs for Arcia's run-scoring fielder's choice, giving the Brewers a 2-0 lead. Quintana managed to avoid further damage in the inning, however, retiring Braun on a flyout to shallow center field to strand the bases loaded.
Cubs:Kyle Hendricks will make his second start since coming off the disabled list on Saturday. In his last outing, he gave up one earned run over 4 ⅓ innings against the White Sox. Hendricks has a 3.24 ERA in his last nine starts. First pitch is scheduled for 6:10 p.m. CT from Miller Park.
Brewers: Right-hander Junior Guerra will face the Cubs for the first time this season when he takes the mound at 6:10 p.m. on Saturday. Guerra last started at Philadelphia on Sunday, allowing five earned runs over four innings in a losing decision. He was 1-0 with a 2.03 ERA in two starts against the Cubs at Miller Park last season.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.