CHICAGO -- Kris Bryant drove in three runs, including two on his 15th home run, to lead the Cubs to an 8-6 victory over the Giants on Saturday and open more breathing room in the National League Wild Card race.
Rookie Addison Russell had three hits, including an RBI single in the eighth, to help Kyle Hendricks pick up the win, which was the Cubs' ninth in their last 10 games. Chicago now has a 2 1/2-game lead over San Francisco in the Wild Card standings.
Bryant's home run was obviously important, but the key for manager Joe Maddon were the three runs the Cubs added in the eighth off Santiago Casilla on RBI hits by Russell, Dexter Fowler and Kyle Schwarber. Those are what Maddon likes to call "jug runs," as in "going for the jugular." They turned out to be huge as the Giants rallied for three runs in the ninth.
"That's a big inning," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I don't know if Casilla wasn't focused, but we were trying to keep it within two."
Brandon Belt hit a two-run homer in the second but it wasn't enough. This is the third time in as many games that the Giants starter lasted four innings. On Saturday, it was Matt Cain, making his seventh start, who walked a season-high five batters.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Kid stuff: The Cubs loaded the bases in the first and Bryant picked up an RBI when he hit into a fielder's choice. His third-inning homer scored Anthony Rizzo, who singled. It was Bryant's first home run and multi-RBI game since July 27, and he now leads all Major League rookies with 64 RBIs.
"People are looking at his batting average, his numbers, whatever," Maddon said of Bryant, who was batting .248. "He's one of the better young baseball players I've had. Period." More >
Divergent paths: With the score tied, 3-3, the Cubs scored twice in the fifth after having two on with nobody out. The Giants had two on with one out in the sixth and couldn't capitalize on that opportunity.
The Cubs have generated more scoring chances in this series, going 11-for-30 with runners in scoring position. The Giants are 6-for-23 in those situations.
Welcome back: In his first game back from the disabled list, Miguel Montero hit an RBI single in the fifth and scored a run in the eighth. Montero also nursed Hendricks through 5 1/3 innings against a tough Giants team. However, the veteran catcher's playing time may be limited because of Schwarber, who started in left field for the fourth time this season and extended his hitting streak to six games.
"Having his name on the lineup is extremely important to us and, obviously, he's been a key role in our success recently," Bryant said of Schwarber. "I wouldn't expect anything less from him. The guy is a freak of nature and it's been fun watching him play."
They might be Giants: San Francisco gave its fans a few things to shout about. Belt's two-run, second-inning homer, which gave the Giants their first lead of the series, was the club's 66th on the road, more than any NL team.
Hunter Pence singled and scored twice, extending his personal Wrigley Field hitting streak to 14 games. And Brandon Crawford has driven in at least one run in each game of the series.
"I'm seeing a much more consistent effort of play. I see we're really starting to believe in ourselves. I'm still looking for that late-inning swagger kind of thing. I think it's almost there, where if things get a little freaky, we're still OK. That's the next step. Overall, you can't complain. The effort, the intensity, the tenacity -- whatever you want to call it -- our guys show up to play every day. I love it." -- Maddon.
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According to STATS LLC, Russell is the all-time National League single-season record holder for at-bats, runs, doubles, RBIs, walks and strikeouts as the No. 9 hitter in the lineup. Maddon prefers having the pitcher bat eighth, and Russell made his 86th start in the No. 9 spot Saturday.
In the three games between the two teams so far, Giants starters have combined for a 9.75 ERA (13 earned runs over 12 innings), while Cubs starters have a 3.86 ERA (seven runs over 16 1/3 innings).
Crawford was called safe on an infield hit to second baseman Chris Coghlan with one out in the Giants' second but the Cubs challenged the call and after a review, it was overturned.
Schwarber was called out on a stolen-base attempt at second in the sixth but the Cubs challenged the call, and after a review, it was ruled the call stands.
WHAT'S NEXT Giants:Jake Peavy, who pitched for the crosstown White Sox from 2009-2013, will try to recover some of his Chicago mojo in Sunday's series finale against the Cubs starting at 11:20 a.m. PT.
Cubs:Jake Arrieta will close the four-game series Sunday, vying for his 10th straight quality start. The right-hander has a 3.07 ERA in 10 starts at Wrigley Field. First pitch will be 1:20 p.m. CT at Wrigley Field.