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Cubs edge Crew in 11 on HR, pad slim lead

MLB.com

MILWAUKEE -- Kris Bryant drove home the tying run in the seventh inning and Jason Heyward smashed a solo home run in the 11th, giving the Cubs a thrilling 2-1 win over the Brewers on Saturday night at sold-out Miller Park.

Many of the fans on hand made the drive up Interstate 94 to see a weekend showdown between the National League Central's top two teams. They erupted when Heyward connected with Jared Hughes' slider with one out in the 11th and sent it into the visitors' bullpen for Chicago's first lead of a tightly played series. The Cubs extended their division lead to 1 1/2 games over the Brewers by winning for the 12th time in 15 games since the All-Star break.

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MILWAUKEE -- Kris Bryant drove home the tying run in the seventh inning and Jason Heyward smashed a solo home run in the 11th, giving the Cubs a thrilling 2-1 win over the Brewers on Saturday night at sold-out Miller Park.

Many of the fans on hand made the drive up Interstate 94 to see a weekend showdown between the National League Central's top two teams. They erupted when Heyward connected with Jared Hughes' slider with one out in the 11th and sent it into the visitors' bullpen for Chicago's first lead of a tightly played series. The Cubs extended their division lead to 1 1/2 games over the Brewers by winning for the 12th time in 15 games since the All-Star break.

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"I knew I hit it well," Heyward said of his eighth homer, which tops his total from all of last year. "I didn't see how much it went out by. I knew I hit it in the gap and that it had the chance."

With bats scuffling, Heyward hits 'big homer'

Video: CHC@MIL: Heyward talks about his game-winning homer

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was happy for the contact considering his club struck out 17 times.

"That ball had a little bit of a charge in it," Maddon said of Heyward's homer. "We needed that."

"I wish I could have that one back right there," said Hughes of the decisive slider. "I missed over the plate and Heyward went down and did a good job of hitting it hard. Overall, if we keep pitching like that, I think we're going to be OK, though."

Hader next Miller? Crew wouldn't mind a bit

Video: CHC@MIL: Hader K's six over three terrific innings

Brewers pitching prospect Josh Hader delivered three innings of inspired relief after starter Junior Guerra's early exit, but Milwaukee couldn't find a clutch hit after Ryan Braun's run-scoring double in the first. The Brewers went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and are 0-for-16 in the first two games of the series.

Video: CHC@MIL: Counsell on creating scoring opportunities

"I don't think we created enough opportunities to score tonight," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell. "Expecting two-out hits every night to score runs, we have to do a little better than that."

Cubs left-hander Mike Montgomery earned the win by stranding the would-be winning run at second base in the 10th, and Wade Davis logged his 21st save in 21 chances.

Video: CHC@MIL: Davis strikes out Villar, locks down save

It doesn't feel like the end of July because of the intensity of the games.

"It's 'Jaugust,'" Maddon said. "It's already there, it's already here. I love it. I absolutely love it, I think our players do. The fans were absolutely energized tonight."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Big Lew runs one down: Pitching with a 1-0 lead and once again grinding for outs, Guerra walked two batters for the second straight inning in the third -- this time with two outs to put the Cubs in business. Eric Sogard rushed a throw to first base on Willson Contreras' bouncer for an error that loaded the bases for Kyle Schwarber, who hit a 110.7 mph (per Statcast™) screamer to center field, where Brewers rookie Lewis Brinson made a half-diving, half-sliding catch for the final out of a scoreless inning. It proved to be Guerra's final pitch of another shaky outing.

Video: CHC@MIL: Brinson makes terrific running catch

"He got out of some jams," Counsell said of Guerra, "but if it is 2-0 or if you have four walks or if you are throwing as many strikes as balls, it is going to bite you eventually."

Bryant ties it: Well-placed ground balls burned Brewers reliever Jacob Barnes three days earlier in Washington, and they burned him again. Jon Jay singled with one out in the seventh and advanced on a Ben Zobrist's groundout to first base that was too soft for Eric Thames to attempt a double play. That moved the tying runner into scoring position for Bryant, who hit an 0-2 cutter right down the middle for a ground-ball single that found the hole between shortstop and third, tying the game at 1. Bryant finished with three singles and a walk to mark the 10th time this season he reached safely at least four times.

Video: CHC@MIL: Bryant smacks RBI single to right

Strop finds his slider: Maddon had a left-hander ready for Travis Shaw in the eighth after Braun walked, but he stuck with right-hander Pedro Strop and saw Shaw punch an opposite-field single to left. With the go-ahead runner in scoring position and a series of right-handed batters lined up for the Brewers, the inning belonged to Strop, who fell behind Hernan Perez and Manny Pina but retired them both. Perez fouled out on a 3-1 fastball that he said started in the zone and ran in, high and tight, and Pina struck out on a slider that bounced in front of home plate. Strop dramatically pumped his fist as a 1-1 game headed to the ninth.

Video: CHC@MIL: Strop strikes out Pina swinging, escapes jam

"One thing we have to focus on is swinging at strikes," said Perez, who had another chance with the winning run in scoring position in the 10th, but flew out. "Don't put more pressure on yourself in the box. That's been happening a lot. I think when we have men in scoring position, we chase a lot."

QUOTABLE
"We pitched a great game. If you go through 11 innings and only wish you had two pitches back, it is pretty darn good pitching." -- Counsell

Video: CHC@MIL: Barnes escapes jam with Contreras popup

"He's proud of his fastball and I love that. I think he's proud of his fastball and he's also proud of his hair. I'm definitely an advocate of that. He should be on a beer shampoo commercial." -- Maddon, on Hader

BACK ATCHA
It wasn't quite the home run robbery that Heyward pulled against Braun in Friday's series opener, but Perez was able to exact a measure of revenge. He ranged back for Javier Baez's fly ball in the fourth to make a leaping catch at the wall, robbing Baez of extra bases and ending the inning.

Video: CHC@MIL: Heyward, Perez trade outstanding catches

"Remember? [Baez] took [a hit] from me in Chicago," said Perez. "He told me, 'We are tied now.'"

WHAT'S NEXT
Cubs: John Lackey will close the series in Sunday's rubber game at Miller Park. Lackey is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in two starts since the All-Star break. However, he has given up 2.07 home runs per nine innings, the highest rate in the NL. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. CT.

Brewers: Coming off one of his best outings of the season, Zach Davies will make his third start against the Cubs this season Sunday as the Brewers go for a series victory. The young righty last started Tuesday at Washington, earning his seventh quality start of the season with 7 2/3 scoreless innings.

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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.

Junior Guerra, Kyle Hendricks