CHICAGO -- It was a milestone night for Ryan Braun, who joined the 300-home run club, while Jimmy Nelson finished one strikeout shy of 200 for the season in an abbreviated outing as the Brewers edged the Cubs, 2-0, on a rare Friday night game at Wrigley Field.
With the win, the Brewers rebounded from being swept in Cincinnati and pulled within four games of the first-place Cubs in the National League Central. Chicago still leads the season series, 7-6.
"I think we're realistic about how many games we have left," Braun said. "And when you're playing the team that's directly ahead of you in your division, it's that much more important and significant to find a way to win the series."
Nelson singled with one out in the fifth inning and jammed his right shoulder sliding awkwardly back into first base. He pitched the bottom of the fifth but was then pulled as a precaution. Nelson did strike out seven over five innings, allowing four hits and two walks before relievers Josh Hader, Anthony Swarzak and Corey Knebel (33rd save) finished Milwaukee's 10th shutout victory.
"That was pretty incredible work by the bullpen right there," Nelson said. "Those guys, coming out throwing some 'fuzz.' Pretty dominant. That was pretty fun to watch, even if it just was from up here."
John Lackey fanned nine over seven innings and took the loss, only his second in 10 starts since the All-Star break.
"I thought we came ready to play and played well," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Their ball [by Braun] went out of the ballpark and ours did not and that was the difference in the game."
The Cubs' ball that didn't reach the bleachers was a fly ball by Anthony Rizzo with two on in the fifth inning that center fielder Keon Broxton caught.
The Cubs came into the game having scored a Major League-best 305 runs since the break, while the Brewers had totaled the fewest (177) in that span. Milwaukee struck quickly as Braun homered in the first inning off Lackey to become the 145th player in Major League history to reach 300 homers and the fourth this season after Nelson Cruz, Curtis Granderson and Matt Holliday.
This was the first regular-season Friday night game at Wrigley Field. Major League Baseball and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel had approved the time change, which was appreciated by the Cubs, who played a night game Thursday in Pittsburgh. The Cubs have played three postseason games on Friday nights, including Game 3 of the World Series last October.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED First things first:Eric Thames doubled off the left-field wall to lead off the game and tallied one out later on Braun's 15th homer of the season. Braun launched a two-seam fastball from Lackey a projected 410 feet, according to Statcast™, to center field. Braun is the 12th active player in the Majors with 300 homers. It was the 33rd off Lackey this season, most by a National League starter.
"I told him, 'Hey, that's not just another homer. That's a huge homer for us. A big one,'" Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "It's a good spot to get it there, and 300's a big number." More >
Escape artist: For the third time in the game, the Cubs had runners at first and third with two outs in the fifth inning. Jon Jay was hit by a pitch, stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch as Kris Bryant drew a walk. But Nelson escaped once again, this time getting Rizzo to fly out to Broxton. The northeast wind didn't help Rizzo's ball.
"If the wind's blowing out, that thing is off the freaking glass out there," Nelson said.
Said Broxton: "Balls out there tonight were doing all types of crazy stuff. I call it tap dancing up there in the sky. Balls were dancing all around up there. You just have to keep your feet moving."
Maddon thought the problem was direction. Rizzo's drive happened to find the gap between scoreboards at Wrigley Field, giving the wind a chance to knock it down.
"It was hit well enough to go but it was so high," Maddon said. "If you get it at the scoreboard [behind the left-field bleachers] a little more, it has a chance."
"They were having fun. I know them pretty well. They were making fun of my hair." -- Cubs infielder Javier Baez, on a doll with braids that the Brewers made and had in their dugout during the gameMore >
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The Cubs were shut out for the 10th time this season, tied for the most in the NL. The Brewers' 10 shutout victories are good for a tie with the Padres for fourth most in the NL.
WHAT'S NEXT Brewers:Chase Anderson gets the call for the Brewers in the middle game of their series against the Cubs on Saturday at 3:05 p.m. CT at Wrigley Field. He used pinpoint command to the tune of a 2.89 ERA through the end of June, then spent seven weeks on the disabled list with a left oblique strain. This will be Anderson's fifth start back.
Cubs:Mike Montgomery will make his 12th start for the Cubs. So far, the lefty is 4-4 with a 4.17 ERA as a starter and is coming off a loss to the Braves in which he gave up three runs over five innings.