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Brewers rotation steps up in Nelson's absence

Davies delivers seven strong innings in finale to lift Crew to sweep
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

CHICAGO -- There were two things Chase Anderson and Zach Davies could do after Jimmy Nelson went down with a season-ending shoulder injury. They could console their teammate, and they could head to the mound at Wrigley Field and follow Nelson's example.

On back-to-back days, the Brewers' top two remaining starting pitchers did just that. After Anderson worked five scoreless innings in Saturday's blowout win, Davies delivered a quality start in a tighter game Sunday afternoon to lead the way to a 3-1 victory and three-game sweep of the Cubs.

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CHICAGO -- There were two things Chase Anderson and Zach Davies could do after Jimmy Nelson went down with a season-ending shoulder injury. They could console their teammate, and they could head to the mound at Wrigley Field and follow Nelson's example.

On back-to-back days, the Brewers' top two remaining starting pitchers did just that. After Anderson worked five scoreless innings in Saturday's blowout win, Davies delivered a quality start in a tighter game Sunday afternoon to lead the way to a 3-1 victory and three-game sweep of the Cubs.

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Davies' performance lifted the Brewers within two games of first place in the National League Central, and it came after Nelson addressed the team Sunday morning.

Video: MIL@CHC: Counsell discusses Davies' pitching in win

"He was upset that he couldn't finish the year, and he's upset that it might take a little away from next year," Davies said. "But he told us he's there to support us. He's there for every inning. He doesn't want to go home, he wants to ride this out with us. That's a big thing for us, just knowing he cares that much about us."

Anderson called Nelson's injury, "terrible news." Nelson owned a 3.49 ERA in 29 starts, and he was one strikeout shy of the 10th 200-whiff season in Brewers history when he got hurt Friday night on the basepaths.

Video: Nelson discusses his season-ending shoulder injury

"Hopefully we can step up, and Jimmy is going to be right there with us," Anderson said. "This is a tough time, but we have to keep pushing."

Anderson started the push on Saturday, and Davies continued it Sunday. He was charged with one earned run on seven hits with a walk and six strikeouts. The Cubs' only run Sunday scored on a dubious Rene Rivera double in the second inning that ticked off right fielder Hernan Perez's glove with two outs. The official scorer ruled it a hit, and he would not budge from that decision when a Brewers official asked him to take a second look.

Nelson, Anderson and Davies combined to limit the Cubs to that lone run on 12 hits in 17 innings in the series, with four walks and 18 strikeouts. And that's with Nelson exiting after five innings Friday because he was hurt, and Anderson leaving after 67 pitches on Saturday because the Brewers had a 14-0 lead.

Video: MIL@CHC: Anderson has great all-around game vs. Cubs

Anderson lowered his ERA to 2.93 in 21 starts. Davies took the Major League lead with his 17th victory, and he has a shot to be the Brewers' first 20-game winner since Teddy Higuera in 1986.

"Those two guys are going to be 'the guys' coming down the stretch," said Travis Shaw. "That's our one and two the rest of the way, and they both stepped up, big time."

They stepped up against a Cubs team that leads the Major Leagues in runs scored since the All-Star break. Only the Rays have scored fewer runs than the Brewers in the same span.

And yet the Brewers outscored the Cubs in the series, 20-3.

"They're just pitching well against us. I know people don't like it, but give their pitchers credit," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "The last two [series] we've seen them, we have not swung the bats well."

"We pitched exceptionally well, no question about it," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "And that's been the strength of this team."

That's something of a departure for the Brewers, whose postseason-caliber clubs in the late-2000s and early '10s were built on offense. This year, the Brewers are eighth in the Majors and fifth in the NL with a 4.03 ERA, with starters and relievers who have been almost identically effective. The offense ranks 21st in the Majors and 11th in the NL with 4.53 runs per game.

"The challenge this weekend was, 'Let's make the next challenge -- and that's the homestead with Pittsburgh -- really important,'" Counsell said. "And we were able to make that really important."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers, Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Jimmy Nelson