MILWAUKEE -- The Cubs had lost two in a row, but manager Joe Maddon wasn't panicking. After all, he had Daniel Murphy back at the top of the lineup and Javier Baez on the basepaths. It doesn't hurt that Kyle Schwarber can hit a baseball a long way.Murphy had three
MILWAUKEE -- The Cubs had lost two in a row, but manager Joe Maddon wasn't panicking. After all, he had Daniel Murphy back at the top of the lineup and Javier Baez on the basepaths. It doesn't hurt that Kyle Schwarber can hit a baseball a long way.
Murphy had three hits, including a leadoff homer to spark a four-run fourth inning that was highlighted by another Baez dash around the bases, as the Cubs beat the Brewers, 6-4, on Wednesday night at Miller Park.
"It would have been nice to sweep these guys, but it's always tough to sweep a team -- and they have a pretty good team over there," Milwaukee's Lorenzo Cain said of the Cubs. "We've been playing them tough all year. It's definitely been good games all season long. I don't expect anything less when we play those guys [next week]."
Schwarber told Maddon his back was tight but then belted his 25th home run, a 436-foot shot into the upper deck in right field with one out in the sixth, to help the Cubs avoid being swept. With the win, Chicago regained a four-game lead over Milwaukee in the National League Central and lead the season series, 10-6, with three more games at Wrigley Field, Sept. 10-12.
"He may have taken his best swing," Maddon said of Schwarber. "The body was out of it probably because he couldn't feel like he could use [his back]. I think that was his best swing of the season. I'm not exaggerating, it was that good."
Maddon didn't consider Wednesday a must-win game.
"I really try to avoid those kind of thoughts," Maddon said. "I try to treat every game equally. If you don't win the game tonight, it means you lost tonight's game -- it's not the end of the world."
Jose Quintana picked up the win in a gutty performance, throwing what Maddon said was the left-hander's best fastball of the year. Quintana was lifted after scattering five hits over 6 2/3 innings. In his last four starts, he's 2-0 with a 2.38 ERA, giving up six earned runs over 22 2/3 innings.
"That's a huge game for us today," Quintana said. "We need to keep battling."
Milwaukee starter Jhoulys Chacin had retired the Cubs in order over the first three innings. Murphy, who had Tuesday off, led off the fourth with his 10th homer of the season and fourth since joining the Cubs.
"He sets the tone for the whole group," Maddon said of Murphy. "Him hitting first, getting all of his at-bats, I love seeing him at the plate as often as we can and then we can upgrade the defense in the latter part of the game and he's all about it."
Time off is nice.
"I think it's a reflection of how deep our ballclub is," Murphy said of getting a breather. "This team is as deep and as versatile as I've ever seen."
After Murphy's homer, it got a little crazy.
Baez singled and was halfway to second when Anthony Rizzo connected on a single to center. Cain overthrew third for an error, allowing Baez to score. Shortstop Orlando Arcia retrieved the ball, but his throw was wild, too, and Rizzo reached third before scoring on Benjamin Zobrist's double for a 3-0 lead. Willson Contreras added an RBI single that inning.
"We've seen that before," Maddon said of Baez. "That's just who he is. He makes things happen on the bases. He's fearless. It came in a big situation again."
"I knew there was nobody at third, and the shortstop had to beat me to the bag at third base plus he had to catch the ball," Baez said. "As I was getting close to the bag, I saw his eyes go up and the pitcher was backing up. I just kept going because the ball, it went right between us."
Did Baez think Cain had to hurry his throw?
"I think they do because they know I'm not afraid to take another bag," Baez said. "When they speed up, they make some errors."
The Cubs now are 11-5 in this stretch of 23 games in 23 days.
"I'm really proud of the way our guys have handled this [stretch]," Maddon said. "I don't sense fatigue, the energy is good, pregame is good, talk in the dugout good. They're good. Normally at this time of the year, you feel more of that [fatigue]. I think our ability to manipulate lineups and keep guys fresh helps. I think they know how to react."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Hold 'em: The Brewers had runners at first and second with one out in the fourth when Jonathan Schoop hit an RBI single. Quintana then struck out Mike Moustakas but hit Erik Kratz to load the bases. Arcia popped up to Baez to end the inning. Quintana had thrown 31 pitches over the first three innings and needed 31 to get through the fourth.
Stopper: Maddon doesn't want to designate a closer to replace injured Brandon Morrow, but Pedro Strop appears to have the job. Strop made it interesting in the ninth. The Brewers had two on and two outs and he struck out Curtis Granderson to end the game. Pitching coach Jim Hickey did go check on Strop.
"[We wanted him to] just slow it down there," Maddon said of the mound visit. "[Strop] was a little bit hurried. He obviously gained his composure. He's got great stuff, 95, 96 [mph], with that sink. The slider he struck out Granderson on, you could see how good that pitch is. It was loud."
• Morrow's return this year in doubt
The Cubs are 11-2 with Murphy in the lineup.
HE SAID IT
"It was like a playoff game. To lose this series yesterday and come back today and play hard and get this win is huge. In our division, everybody is close. We're trying to win as many games as we can." -- Baez
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Murphy was at third and Rizzo at second with two outs in the fifth when Zobrist singled to center. Cain threw home and Rizzo was called out but the Cubs challenged the ruling. After review, the call stood and the inning was over.
Kyle Hendricks (11-10, 3.77 ERA) will start the series opener Thursday against the Nationals, as a long road trip continues for the NL-best Cubs. He's coming off a win over the Phillies in which he gave up one run over six innings. He did not get a decision against the Nationals on Aug. 10 at Wrigley Field, giving up two runs over six innings. Right-hander Stephen Strasburg (7-7, 4.09) will start for Washington. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 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.