By CHARLES F. GARDNER
MILWAUKEE (AP) – Daniel Murphy and Kyle Schwarber homered to back a solid start from Jose Quintana, and the Chicago Cubs held off the Milwaukee Brewers 6-4 on Wednesday night to avert a three-game sweep.
Pedro Strop closed out a tense ninth inning as Chicago boosted its NL Central lead to four games over the second-place Brewers.
Quintana (12-9) allowed two runs in 6 2/3 innings, improving to 3-1 at Miller Park with the Cubs.
Strop allowed a walk and a single to open the ninth but got the final three outs, striking out Curtis Granderson with two runners on to preserve the win.
Granderson belted his first home run as a member of the Brewers in a pinch-hit role in the seventh, a two-run shot that cut Chicago’s lead to 6-4.
The Cubs finally broke their string of 16 scoreless innings against Milwaukee right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (14-6) when Murphy led off the fourth with an opposite-field homer into the Brewers’ left-field bullpen.
Javier Baez followed with a single and his aggressive baserunning helped the Cubs extend their lead. He raced for third on a single by Anthony Rizzo, and when center fielder Lorenzo Cain’s throw sailed, Baez scored and Rizzo went to third on a second error by shortstop Orlando Arcia. Ben Zobrist doubled inside the right-field line to score Rizzo and give the Cubs a 3-0 lead.
A soft RBI single by Willson Contreras capped the four-run rally.
Jonathan Scoop’s bad-hop single drove home a run in the bottom of the inning, and the Brewers loaded the bases with two outs. Quintana induced Arcia to hit a pop fly to shortstop to escape the jam.
Zobrist drove in his second run in the fifth with a two-out single, but Rizzo was thrown out at the plate trying to score from second base.
Schwarber homered into the second deck in right field in the sixth to make it 6-1.
Quintana allowed a leadoff single to Jesus Aguilar and a double to Ryan Braun in the sixth, but the Brewers managed just one run on a groundout by Schoop.
Cubs: RHP Brandon Morrow may be reaching the point of no return for the Cubs, and manager Joe Maddon said he will have to use several relievers in the closer role the rest of the season. Morrow, who posted 22 saves as the closer before being injured, has been sidelined since July 18 with right biceps inflammation. He has yet to throw off a mound in his rehab. "We’d love to have him back, but even if he does come back, how do you utilize that?" Maddon said. "You just can’t push him two days in a row." Strop has received most of the closing chances in Morrow’s absence and has 11 saves. "He’s definitely got the stuff to do it," Maddon said. "The slider is devastating and he has added a cutter and a splitter to his repertoire. And he’s been a pretty good strike thrower this year, too."
Brewers: OF Christian Yelich was rested as the Brewers head into the final stretch of the season. He singled as a pinch-hitter in the ninth. "He needs a day off," manager Craig Counsell said. "Friday was a thought, but it just reached a point where it had to be today." Yelich had not been out of the lineup since July 3. He was batting .309 with nine homers and 25 RBIs over his past 21 games, reaching safely in all of them. He was selected the NL player of the week for Aug. 27 to Sept. 2.
Cubs: RHP Kyle Hendricks (11-10, 3.77 ERA) will open the four-game series in Washington on Thursday night. Hendricks has made three straight quality starts, including Saturday at Philadelphia when he held the Phillies to one run in the Cubs’ 7-1 victory.
Brewers: RHP Chase Anderson (9-7, 3.96 ERA) defeated the Giants earlier this season in San Francisco, allowing just four hits and one run in six innings. He will open a three-game series against the Giants on Friday at Miller Park. Opponents are batting .224 against him and he has allowed 28 home runs, tying for the most in the National League.
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