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Cubs fall despite Montgomery's strong start

Lefty goes 5 1/3 strong before Chavez yields go-ahead homer
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- The Cubs have been trying to squeeze quality starts from their rotation, but Mike Montgomery couldn't go long enough on Thursday night and the Padres took advantage.

Since Jesse Chavez joined the Cubs, he'd been nearly perfect, but Austin Hedges ended the reliever's scoreless streak with a three-run homer in the sixth inning to lead the Padres to a 6-1 victory at Wrigley Field.

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CHICAGO -- The Cubs have been trying to squeeze quality starts from their rotation, but Mike Montgomery couldn't go long enough on Thursday night and the Padres took advantage.

Since Jesse Chavez joined the Cubs, he'd been nearly perfect, but Austin Hedges ended the reliever's scoreless streak with a three-run homer in the sixth inning to lead the Padres to a 6-1 victory at Wrigley Field.

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Montgomery scattered seven hits over 5 1/3 innings and he was lifted after issuing a walk to Eric Hosmer with one out in the sixth. Chavez, one of three pitchers acquired by the club in July, had not given up a run over nine innings in six games. But he served up a single to Christian Villanueva to set up Hedges' homer. The first-place Cubs maintained their one-game lead over the Brewers, who dropped a 21-5 decision to the Dodgers on Thursday night, in the National League Central race.

"Those guys came to play," Montgomery said of the Padres, who have the worst record in the National League. "They weren't giving away at-bats. They hit a lot of good pitches. I was talking to Hosmer at first base, I played with him [in Kansas City], and he's like, 'Man, I love playing here, this place is awesome.' When guys come here, they definitely aren't taking any plays off."

Video: SD@CHC: Montgomery K's Erlin to escape a jam in 1st

One of four left-handers in the Cubs' rotation with the addition of Cole Hamels, Montgomery was making his 12th start in place of Yu Darvish, who is rehabbing from right triceps tendinitis. Montgomery has done well at Wrigley, posting a 2.70 ERA in six home starts so far.

"It was definitely an improvement from the last game," Montgomery said of his previous outing, when he gave up 12 hits over five innings against the Cardinals. "I've been working on some things, and I thought I did better tonight and made pitches when I needed to. Credit to them -- they got some hits that I made good pitches on."

Montgomery was in line for the win and the game-winning RBI as he was credited with driving in the Cubs' run in the fifth. Willson Contreras' swim move helped him avoid being tagged by Hedges at home plate although the Cubs needed a replay review to overturn the original out call.

The Padres out-hit the Cubs, 15-3.

"They just beat us up tonight," manager Joe Maddon said.

It didn't seem as if the Cubs could do anything against Padres starter Robbie Erlin, who retired the first 11 batters he faced before Jason Heyward reached on an infield single with two out in the fourth. Erlin, who was making his third start of the season and his first since May 21, lasted five innings, his longest outing of the season.

"He had great command and was willing to throw another offspeed pitch in a fastball count," Maddon said. "And he had great mound composure, too."

The win ended the Padres' losing streak at seven straight games while the Cubs dropped to 7-8 since the All-Star break.

"I think we've been playing pretty good," Contreras said. "Tonight we lost, but so what? Tomorrow's a new game, a new day, and we're looking forward to it."

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Manuel Margot singled to lead off the Padres' third and tried to steal second, but catcher Contreras fired a perfect strike to second baseman Javier Baez to get Margot.

Video: SD@CHC: Contreras cuts down Margot at second base

HE SAID IT
"We have to pitch consistently better from the starters and we have to have better at-bats. Some of the guys, we might have a good night and it doesn't show up the next night. We have to get more consistency out of the group. You look at the numbers -- what am I going to complain about? The proverbial run differential is beautiful. There's nothing for me to get all upset about. A lot of times run differential is the residue of starting pitching, but I can't say that now. We do grind out the at-bats, the boys do not quit, they're into every pitch. We haven't hit our offensive stride where we go out there and pummel people two weeks in a row, and that would be nice to do." -- Maddon

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Contreras walked to open the Cubs' fifth and one out later, he reached third on Addison Russell's single. Montgomery then hit a comebacker to Erlin, who threw to shortstop Freddy Galvis for the force at second. Galvis fired home to Hedges for a play on Contreras, who was originally ruled to be out, but the call was overturned after a review.

Video: SD@CHC: Contreras on intelligent slide at the plate

"I've been watching Javy a lot," Contreras said of his acrobatic move to avoid the tag. "I think it came out by itself. I was thinking about it when I was going home and I executed it perfectly. I knew I was safe because [Hedges] never touched me. That's why I was telling Joe to challenge it, challenge it."

The Padres, obviously, thought differently.

"He made a good slide," Hedges said. "I thought I tagged him. They didn't think so, but hats off to him. It was a good play, really good play on his part."

UP NEXT
Cubs left-hander Jose Quintana (9-7, 4.26 ERA) will start the second game of this four-game series against the Padres at 1:20 p.m. CT on Friday at Wrigley Field. Quintana struggled with his command in his last outing, needing 51 pitches to get through the first inning against the Cardinals. Quintana only lasted three innings. He'd been on a good roll before that outing, winning three in a row, and he's 4-2 at Wrigley Field this year. The Padres will counter with righty Tyson Ross (6-8, 4.41 ERA).

Quintana will be the fourth straight left-handed pitcher to start for the Cubs, the first time that's happened since Sept. 21-23, 1966, at Wrigley Field, when Ken Holtzman and Dave Dowling faced the Reds and Curt Simmons and Dick Ellsworth started against the Dodgers.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Willson Contreras, Mike Montgomery