CHICAGO -- When Cubs manager Joe Maddon arrived at Wrigley Field on Saturday, the first thing he checked was whether the home clubhouse still smelled of champagne. All he wanted to do after that was hand the ball to Jake Arrieta, but Ryan Braun spoiled the Cubs' day.
Braun drove in five runs, hitting a pair of two-run homers, and Chris Carter belted his third career grand slam to power the Brewers to an 11-3 victory over the Cubs. Braun notched homers No. 29 and 30 for his sixth multi-homer game this year to help Zach Davies pick up the win.
"We've actually played really well over an extended period right now," Braun said. "I think over the last three weeks, we've played a lot of good teams. We've obviously played our best baseball of the year, and it's encouraging just to see guys continuing to compete."
Davies was tagged for three runs in the first, then escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fourth and stranded two in the fifth. Carter connected in the ninth inning for his third career grand slam, which hit the video board behind the left-field bleachers.
"That team, they've done a nice job," Maddon said of the Brewers. "They've done a nice job with the people they've brought in, some athletes, big strong guys. Their defense is really good. They're doing everything right. Putting a scout's cap on, from the other dugout, I have to compliment them."
The Cubs' magic number to clinch home field advantage through the National League Championship Series is eight, following the Nationals' loss on Saturday. Chicago claimed the Central title late Thursday but didn't celebrate until after Friday's game, and Maddon started the reserves on Saturday for a second day with the exception of Kris Bryant, who notched his 96th RBI of the season in the first.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED First things first: The Cubs missed hitting for the cycle by a double in the first inning against Davies. Tommy La Stella singled to lead off and scored on Bryant's triple. Chris Coghlan followed with a home run, launching the first pitch he saw from Davies into the right-field bleachers. It was his sixth of the season and first with the Cubs. The wind was blowing out to right and definitely favored the hitters. Davies did strike out the next three batters to end the inning. The Cubs have outscored opponents 99-62 in the first inning.
'E' for Exit: The Brewers hit four more home runs to give them eight in the first three games of the series. Braun's two blasts Saturday raised his season total to 30 for the sixth time in his 10 Major League seasons. Scooter Gennett set up each of Braun's home runs by hitting a double ahead of him. Domingo Santana added a towering home run in the eighth that sailed over the left-field bleachers, while Carter's slam bounced off the protective netting in front of the video board in left, an estimated 438 feet from home plate, according to Statcast™. The ball left his bat with a 110-mph exit velocity at a 34-degree launch angle.
"I took [batting practice] here the first day, and I hit a few balls in that general area, and when I hit that one I knew it was going to hit the scoreboard," Carter said. "That was a good one, one of the best ones this year." More >
Walk this way: Arrieta was vying for his 18th win, and he has at least two starts remaining, but he may be out of time to become the Cubs' first back-to-back 20-game winner since Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins did so in five straight seasons, 1968-72. Arrieta walked four over six innings, and he now has issued a career-high 73 walks over 185 1/3 innings. When he won the NL Cy Young Award last season, he averaged 1.89 walks per nine innings.
"It's fixable," Maddon said of Arrieta. "We have some ideas. We'll go over it with him. In spite of that, look at what he's done to this point. That's the biggest thing. If we could get him to get better command of his fastball in the next two starts, everything will play off that." More >
Great escapes: Considering the way his first three batters went, Davies could've had a much worse day. Instead, he buckled down in some other tough spots. In the first, after the Cubs struck for three runs, Davies struck out the side to keep the score 3-0. In the fourth, after the Cubs loaded the bases with no outs, he escaped by striking out Matt Szczur and getting Munenori Kawasaki to hit into an inning-ending double play. The Cubs also put runners at the corners with two outs in the fifth, Davies' last inning, but he got Willson Contreras to ground out.
"It was just kind of a buckle down, focus and make sure to get through as many innings as you can after that [first inning]," Davies said. "You give up three runs on five pitches, it's like, 'OK, let's wipe the slate and start off fresh.'"
"That's about as far as he can hit a baseball, as far as I've seen a baseball hit. So, he definitely centered that one up."-- Braun, on Carter's grand slam
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Cubs gave up four home runs to the Brewers in a game for the first time since serving up five on Aug. 27, 2012, at Wrigley Field.
WHAT'S NEXT Brewers: Right-hander Wily Peralta will start the series finale in his second outing against the Cubs this season. Peralta earned a win against the Cubs on Sept. 6, allowing four runs in 7 2/3 innings of Milwaukee's 12-5 win at Miller Park. First pitch is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. CT.
Cubs:Kyle Hendricks, who boasts the top ERA in the Major Leagues at 2.03, will close the series against the Brewers on Sunday at Wrigley Field. Hendricks is 9-1 with a 1.21 ERA at home. Expect a few more Cubs regulars in the lineup.