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Cubs drop series finale as Brewers close gap

Offense held to Bryant's RBI double; NL Central lead at 1 game
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- The Brewers made a statement by taking two out of three against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. If the Cubs are to repeat as National League Central champs, they need to find some energy and their offense.

"We're still in first place," Chicago's Javier Baez said after a 5-1 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday night. "We've just got to go out there and play. Nobody is going to beat us if we go out there and play."

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CHICAGO -- The Brewers made a statement by taking two out of three against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. If the Cubs are to repeat as National League Central champs, they need to find some energy and their offense.

"We're still in first place," Chicago's Javier Baez said after a 5-1 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday night. "We've just got to go out there and play. Nobody is going to beat us if we go out there and play."

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Curtis Granderson had three hits, including a solo homer, and scored three runs to spark the Brewers, who now are within one game of the division-leading Cubs.

"That's a really good team and they've been playing us close," Chicago starter Kyle Hendricks said. "They're definitely coming for us -- we can feel it. That's why we have to focus on what we do and play our brand of baseball."

Video: MIL@CHC: Baez and Maddon on tough 5-1 loss

This was the last regular-season meeting between the teams, who could face off again in the NL Division Series. Still to be determined is who will win the NL Central. Right now, manager Joe Maddon's crew could use a nap.

Wednesday was Day 23 of the Cubs' arduous stretch of 30 days with a game scheduled.

"I don't want it to sound like an excuse, but we do need the rest," Maddon said. "[The players] need a break and it's not happening for another week, and we have to figure it out somehow. They're a very tightly knit group and I know we'll get through it somehow. They just need to lay the body down for one day."

"I mean, it's September," Chicago's Anthony Rizzo said. "You figure out ways to get going. Just do what it takes that day to get ready for the game and you figure it out. You do the same thing the next day."

Hendricks gave up two runs over five innings and was lifted in an attempt to find some offense. Granderson homered off Steve Cishek in the ninth for the Chicago-area native's first blast at Wrigley Field since June 2006, when he connected against Mark Prior. Milwaukee added insurance runs when Mike Moustakas added a two-run single off Brian Duensing.

Video: MIL@CHC: Granderson cranks a solo home run in the 9th

"Granderson is good and he really played the wind perfectly. Give him credit," Maddon said. "We needed to do the same and we didn't. That third run was large, regarding bullpen usage the rest of the game and how that ninth inning set up."

Milwaukee starter Chase Anderson threw four scoreless innings and the Cubs tallied with two outs in the fifth on Kris Bryant's RBI double off Jacob Barnes. However, they had to face Josh Hader one more time, and he struck out three of the four batters he faced.

"He's been big for them," Baez said of Hader. "I mean, if we don't make the adjustments against him, they're just going to keep bringing him in against us. It's hard because the way he throws and the way we hit -- a lot of power hitters in the lineup -- it's tough to catch up the way he pitches. We'll see what happens during these last two weeks and October."

Video: MIL@CHC: Hader whiffs Baez, strikes out side in 8th

The Cubs' offense has sputtered and Maddon hasn't been able to pinpoint a reason for the malaise.

"The offense has taken a hit, there's no question -- no pun intended," Maddon said. "We've got to get better. There's no other way to look at it. We have to find that within ourselves."

In six games against the Brewers this month, the Cubs scored 16 runs. They haven't gotten much of a spark lately from new leadoff man, Daniel Murphy, who is 0-for-12 in his last four games.

"Obviously, it's not been the same but he'll be fine," Maddon said of the veteran. "Probably he needs a day off as much as anybody."

The Cubs did take the season series, 11-8, but this is a different Brewers team than the one they faced in April.

Video: MIL@CHC: Bryant drills an RBI double to left-center

"It's a 162-game season," Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said. "They've earned every bit of our respect, for sure, and they're the ones who have ended up on top. We've still got a little work to do. We haven't got there yet."

Kevin Hart throws first pitch at '273 mph'

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
In a pinch: Pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella greeted Barnes in the fifth inning with a single, his Major League-leading 23rd pinch-hit. La Stella reached second on a throwing error by shortstop Hernan Perez, moved up on Addison Russell's groundout and scored on Bryant's double. It was Bryant's fourth double since coming off the disabled list Sept. 1. He's showing signs of getting on track.

"We need to do it as a group," Maddon said of the offense. "We need to get contagious again, we need to swarm again like we had been doing. I don't have any solid reasons other than, without making excuses, there just might be some fatigue in there that they're not admitting to but it's just a fact."

Closer situations: The Brewers had a runner at third in three straight innings. In the sixth, Milwaukee had a runner at third and two outs, but Randy Rosario struck out Eric Thames to end the inning. In the seventh, the Brewers had runners at second and third with two outs against Jesse Chavez, but right fielder Ben Zobrist made a running catch of Lorenzo Cain's fly ball to end that. With two outs in the eighth, Moustakas reached third, but Cishek struck out pinch-hitter Jesus Aguilar.

Video: ML@CHC: Cishek fans Aguilar, strands 2 in the 8th

"We did a lot of good things," Maddon said. "We made some great plays but so did they. they just got us in the end."

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Bouncing ball: Granderson tripled to left to lead off the game, but the umpires conferred and signaled home run. A crew-chief review showed the ball didn't clear the basket rimming the outfield wall but hit the yellow rope rimming the edge of it, so the call was overturned and Granderson was sent back to third. He then scored on Cain's single.

Video: MIL@CHC: Granderson robbed of home run by netting

HE SAID IT
"It's a bad one for sure. We've had some tough trips in the past. We've been through a lot. It makes you tougher in the end. That's the approach we take, is don't count us out, kind of a little bit of an underdog. We'll make it through this stretch all right." -- Hendricks, on the Cubs' long stretch of consecutive workdays

"It happens. It's happened to us all year. We've hit well, we haven't hit well. I think overall, the attitude and the energy is where it needs to be. I think we're in a very good position to win this division. We've just got to keep playing good baseball." -- Rizzo, on the Cubs' inconsistent offense

TIME CHANGE
Friday's game against the Reds at Wrigley Field was moved to a 7:05 p.m. CT start to give the team a little bit of a break after playing a makeup game on Thursday against the Nationals in Washington. Friday's game had been scheduled for a 1:20 p.m. start. The gates will open approximately two hours before the start of the evening game. No ticket exchange is necessary. More >

UP NEXT
Mike Montgomery will get the start on Thursday in a makeup game at Washington against the Nationals. This will be Montgomery's 16th start this year, and he's 4-4 with a 3.43 ERA as a starter. Montgomery last faced the Nationals in a relief appearance on Aug. 11. The Nats will counter with Joe Ross, who will be making his official season debut after his initial start was washed away after five outs. First pitch is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. CT from Nationals Park.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Kris Bryant, Kyle Hendricks