CHICAGO -- If the Cubs are going to repeat as National League Central champs, they need Kristopher Bryant, and he hit his first home run of September, a three-run shot in the fourth inning, and 26th of the season to spark an 8-3 victory over the Mets on Tuesday night
CHICAGO -- If the Cubs are going to repeat as National League Central champs, they need Kristopher Bryant, and he hit his first home run of September, a three-run shot in the fourth inning, and 26th of the season to spark an 8-3 victory over the Mets on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.
Bryant added a sacrifice fly in the eighth, and Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ each hit solo homers to help the Cubs end a three-game losing streak. With the win, they maintained a two-game lead over the Cardinals and a 2 1/2-game lead over the Brewers in the NL Central.
"This time of the year, it's fun to be us right now," said Schwarber, who tied a season high with three hits. "We're being chased. There's not a better feeling than playing some really good baseball games down the road."
Jose Quintana picked up the win, and helped himself with a run-scoring sacrifice bunt in the fourth to set up Bryant's homer. The lefty scattered six hits over seven innings, walking one and striking out seven. He's now given up three or fewer earned runs in nine of his 11 starts since joining the Cubs.
As Quintana came off the field after the sixth inning, he signaled to Maddon that he wanted to go one more, and the manager agreed.
"He gave me that confidence," Quintana said. "I got up there and got my outs."
"He's totally invested," Maddon said of Quintana. "This guy wants to do well, he wants to be in the playoffs, he wants to go to the World Series, so his focus is outstanding."
Bryant, the reigning NL Most Valuable Player Award winner, entered the game 2-for-16 in his last five games and did not have an RBI this month. His home run was his second hit in his last 19 at-bats with a runner in scoring position.
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"That was a big at-bat by [Bryant], down two strikes, and for him to put the ball in the seats and give us the lead, that obviously puts the momentum on our side," Schwarber said. "It was a good feeling all around. We just wanted to keep the pressure on."
The Cubs threatened in the first when they loaded the bases with one out and again in the third when they had two on and two outs, but Mets starter Robert Gsellman escaped both times. However, Gsellman had a short outing after throwing 93 pitches over four innings and walking a career-high five batters.
"It's about command, and tonight his command was certainly not what we know he can do," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He's a sinkerball pitcher, and they can get out of innings. You get a ground ball, you get a double play, you get out of an inning. What you end up hoping is that as the game goes on, that he finds it. ... Tonight, obviously, the mistake to Bryant killed him."
• Mechanics falter for Gsellman
"I think we made their guy work," Bryant said of Gsellman. "He had a lot of pitches in four innings. That's always a good sign -- if we continue to do that and get on base, good things will happen."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
September to remember: Schwarber walked to open the fourth, the fourth straight inning the Cubs' leadoff man reached base, and he got to third on Jason Heyward's single. Quintana then bunted toward first and Dominic Smith threw home, but Schwarber slid safely to tie the game at 1. One out later, Bryant belted his homer to open a 4-1 lead.
"We had opportunities early in this game and K.B.'s home run really turned the tide," Maddon said. "We've been looking for that one big hit. He has this tendency to hit balls to left central to get us going."
Speedster:Juan Lagares doubled to lead off the Mets fourth and one out later, reached third on Amed Rosario's infield single that deflected off the mound. Lagares was aggressive and sprinted home when Travis Taijeron grounded out to third for the rookie outfielder's second RBI.
"It's unrealistic to believe these other teams aren't going to press you a little bit. They're good. Milwaukee has gotten better and St. Louis is St. Louis. It's a bad method or thought process to think they're going to fold. ... You've got to play the games and you've got to win. It's not about anybody else. Cubs win, none of this other stuff matters." -- Maddon
"It just can't happen up here. All those walks are going to lead to runs eventually." -- Gsellman
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• Bryant's homer was the Cubs' 200th of the season, and the team has reached that mark for the fifth time in club history and first time since 2004.
• Happ now has 14 home runs at Wrigley Field, third most all-time by a Cubs rookie. He trails Bryant (21 in 2015) and Billy Williams (17 in 1961).
• Fan's intense reaction to Happ's HR ball
Mets:Matt Harvey looks to take another step forward when he returns to the mound Wednesday for a 8:05 p.m. ET game against the Cubs. Harvey, who gave up seven runs in two innings in his return from the disabled list earlier this month, allowed just two runs his last time out in five innings against the Reds. Chicago's offense presents a stiffer challenge.
Cubs:Jonathan Lester makes his 29th start of the season on Wednesday. The lefty is coming off a win over the Pirates in which he gave up one run over six innings. He's 4-1 with a 3.97 ERA in six career starts against the Mets. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT at Wrigley Field. Preview >>
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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.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.