Lester, 5 HRs spur Cubs to 7th straight

Lester, 5 HRs spur Cubs to 7th straight

CHICAGO -- On National Left-Handers Day, the Cubs' lefties were all right.

Dexter Fowler, Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo each homered in the fifth inning, and Schwarber added a two-run shot in the seventh plus an RBI single in the eighth to back Jon Lester and power the Cubs to a 9-2 victory Thursday over the Brewers.

It was the Cubs' 13th win in their past 14 games, and kept them securely in the National League Wild Card race.

Maddon on Lester, rookies in win

"Right now it feels like we're in a playoff game every day," Schwarber said. "That's the mindset we need to have."

Lester struck out 10 over six innings for his fourth straight win, and now is the first southpaw pitcher in franchise history with four double-digit strikeout games in a single season. Chris Denorfia added a solo homer in the eighth to help the Cubs win their seventh straight game for the first time since July 31-Aug. 6, 2011.

Lester's strong start

Players and the 40,799 fans at Wrigley Field had to deal with the loud and often unexpected jets flying overhead in preparation for the weekend Chicago Air and Water Show. Milwaukee's Tyler Cravy served up Fowler and Schwarber's homers, two of four hits he gave up over 4 1/3 innings on the way to Milwaukee's 16th loss in the past 22 games. More >

"Losing's difficult. It makes it harder to have fun, there's no question," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "But there's a lot of guys with a lot to play for." More >

Cubs go back-to-back

After further review: It took a little time to confirm Fowler's homer. With one out in the fifth, Addison Russell walked, and Fowler then lined a 1-2 pitch from Cravy to right. The ball hit the green padding on top of the bleachers and bounced back onto the playing field. The umpires did not signal, but crew chief Mark Carlson then reviewed the play, and the home run was confirmed. Schwarber followed Fowler with his seventh homer, a no-doubter to center field, and one out later, Rizzo connected on No. 22 of the season to open a 5-1 lead.

Running wild: Lester's inability to throw to the bases is well known -- he went 66 straight games without doing it, ending that streak in April this year. The Brewers tested the lefty in the third. Cravy bunted, and Lester did manage to throw his counterpart out by bouncing the ball to first baseman Rizzo. But Jean Segura then reached on an infield single to third baseman Kris Bryant. Segura advanced on an errant pickoff throw by Lester, stole third and scored on Ryan Braun's chopper to Rizzo. Braun then stole second and third, and Khris Davis walked and swiped second. Lester leads the Major Leagues in stolen bases allowed with 35. The good news for him is the Brewers only scored one run in the third.

Brewers' four stolen bases

"I think it's something you have to do against him," Counsell said. "You don't get many guys on base against him and we just tried to be aggressive and kind of get him out of his rhythm."

Said Lester: "We all know what's going on here. I just have to do a better job." More >

Lohse gets help: The Brewers are trying to trade veteran right-hander Kyle Lohse, who was bumped from the rotation last week in favor of Cravy. Lohse pitched a scoreless sixth inning Thursday that ended with second baseman Elian Herrera making a terrific, over-the-shoulder catch in shallow right field. It was Lohse's first appearance on one or fewer days of rest since 2006. He was charged with a run after issuing a leadoff walk in the seventh and exiting the game.

Herrera's sliding catch

"We got our butts kicked. I mean, that's pretty simple. The Cubs are playing well, but we got our butts kicked." -- Counsell, on being swept

"It's definitely much more enjoyable. You've just got to get it in the air to go -- it's kind of crazy. That's why it's Wrigley Field, you never know what you're going to get." -- Schwarber, on hitting at home when the wind is blowing out

The Brewers' four stolen bases against Lester and Ross in the second inning matched Milwaukee's season-high for a game (July 4 at Cincinnati), and marked their first four-steal inning since April 14, 1992, at Minnesota. But even with five stolen bases in the game, the Brewers fell well shy of the franchise record of eight, set in an Aug. 29, 1992, game against David Cone and the Blue Jays. Seven of Milwaukee's steals that day came against the battery of Cone and catcher Pat Borders. Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio was the winning pitcher that day.

Thursday marked the first time the Cubs have hit three home runs in one inning since Aug. 29, 2011, vs. the Giants in San Francisco. It was the first time at Wrigley Field since they hit a trio June 21, 2008, against the White Sox.

With the win, the Cubs posted their first unbeaten homestand of at least seven games since going 7-0 from May 26-June 1, 2008.

Brewers: The Brewers resume a home-heavy portion of the schedule Friday when they host the Phillies at Miller Park. Milwaukee right-hander Wily Peralta owns an 8.82 ERA in three career starts against the Phillies heading into a 7:10 p.m. CT start.

Cubs: Kyle Hendricks will open the Cubs' Interleague series against their crosstown rivals, the White Sox, on Friday at U.S. Cellular Field. Hendricks is 4-1 with a 2.55 ERA in his past eight starts, striking out 45 and walking 12 over 49 1/3 innings. First pitch is scheduled for 3:10 p.m. CT.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.