CHICAGO -- The Cubs broke a tie with a two-run fifth inning and the bullpen allowed one run in four innings to secure a 9-5 victory over the Brewers on Monday night at Wrigley Field. Chicago is two games behind Pittsburgh in the National League Wild Card race and has improved to 14-6 in September.
"Sometimes a lot of teams get good in April," said Cubs second baseman Starlin Castro. "But when you get good in September, it's good. I think we've got a tremendous group, and everybody is on the same page."
With the score tied at 4, the Cubs used a sacrifice fly from Castro and a single from Miguel Montero off Brewers starter Wily Peralta to break open the game. Peralta was tagged for three runs in the second and one in the third before giving way in the fifth. He allowed six runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings, dropping to 5-10 on the season.
"[Peralta] had a very efficient first inning, and in the second inning, he walked three guys and that was costly -- three runs," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "I think his command was not great. Again, it was trouble getting consistency with the sinker. We're not seeing that ball being beaten into the ground like we're used to seeing."
Milwaukee had tied the score in the top of the fifth against Cubs right-hander Jason Hammel thanks to Adam Lind's two-run blast. The Brewers tagged Hammel in the first inning with two runs, but he survived four more innings to pick up his second win of September. Four relievers combined to close out the game, with the only run surrendered when Khris Davis took Tommy Hunter deep in the eighth inning.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Highs and lows: Castro continued his torrid stretch at the plate, adding two RBIs and reaching base three times. He knocked in Anthony Rizzo with a double in the second inning to spark a rally before his sacrifice fly in the fifth scored Rizzo again. In his last 25 games, Castro is batting .419 with five home runs and 17 RBIs. He struggled in the field, though, committing his 19th error of the season during the third inning.
"I think the most [important] thing is the confidence," Castro said. "I think as a hitter, it's the best thing we can have. When we have confidence, a lot of things go well."
20-homer club: One of the bright spots in the Brewers' season has been the slugging of Lind. With the Brewers trailing, 4-2, in the fifth inning, Lind cracked a two-run homer to left field off Hammel. The homer, Lind's 20th of the season, briefly tied the score.
"Adam has been an anchor in the middle of the lineup all year," Counsell said. "He's a professional hitter with quality at-bats. He's been very, very consistent this year."
Enter stage right: Cubs manager Joe Maddon noted that he's working Jorge Soler into a large role as Soler comes back from the disabled list, using him primarily as a pinch-hitter. Soler made his only at-bat of the night count, connecting on his ninth home run of the season, a three-run homer to left field in the seventh. It was his first career pinch-hit home run and the Cubs' fourth pinch-hit homer this season.
"That was my biggest thought, or concern -- how would he react to coming off the bench?" Maddon said. "Moving down the road, we're just trying to figure out how to get all these guys opportunity and playing time. But it's a nice weapon to have coming off the bench, also. He looked good. The bat speed is remarkably good, and he looks comfortable at the plate."
Clutch hit: It appeared as though Hammel might escape the first inning with just one run surrendered (after his throwing error allowed Scooter Gennett to score and Logan Schafer to advance to third with one out), but rookie Domingo Santana came through with a two-out single to give the Brewers a two-run lead. It was Santana's 18th RBI since being recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs on Aug. 21.
"I've got to exorcise some demons or something for that first inning, because I warmed up in the 'pen great, put together some pretty good pitches and felt great. But for whatever reason, I find myself battling back in counts. My pitch selection can be better early, pitching the way I can, be what type of pitcher I know I am." --Hammel, on his struggles in the first inning, when he has posted a 5.59 ERA in 29 chances this season
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Cubs committed three errors, tying a season high and marking the fourth time this season they have committed as many as three in a game. The last time they did so was on Aug. 31, against Cincinnati.
BEHIND THE 8-BALL
The Brewers have now dropped eight straight to the Cubs.
"We're in spots now where we're kind of up against it playing them," Counsell said. "They're a good team that's playing well. Offensively, I think we played well, but all facets have to be well to beat the teams we're playing now, the Cubs and the Cardinals. We have to be perfect to win these games."
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler was quick to point to Maddon the moment he was ruled out at second base in the second inning. Maddon obliged Fowler, who was stretching out a double, and was rewarded when officials overturned umpire Paul Nauert's call. The double scored two runs, giving the Cubs their first lead of the game.
In the seventh, with Gennett on first base, Cubs reliever Clayton Richard threw a wild pitch. The ball bounced hard off the brick wall behind home plate and rolled down the third-base line in foul territory. Gennett rounded second and headed for third as third baseman Kris Bryant picked up the ball. Bryant ran to the bag and dove head first to tag the sliding Gennett for the first out. The Brewers challenged, but the call stood following a review.
WHAT'S NEXT Brewers: Right-hander Tyler Cravy will make a spot start in place of Jimmy Nelson, who has been shut down for the season after being struck in the head by a liner last week. Cravy (0-7, 6.42 ERA) will be looking for his first win. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. CT.
Cubs: Right-hander Jake Arrieta will look for win No. 20 when he takes the mound against the Brewers on Tuesday. He hopes to become the first Cubs pitcher to win 20 games since Jon Lieber did so in 2001. First pitch from Wrigley Field is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT.