CHICAGO -- How would the Brewers respond to losing pitcher Jimmy Nelson for the season? They beat up on their division rivals, the Cubs, and guaranteed they will leave Wrigley Field better than when they got here.
Travis Shaw and Orlando Arcia each hit two-run doubles in an eight-run third inning, while Hernan Perez drove in a career-high five runs to spark the Brewers to a 15-2 victory on Saturday over the Cubs. With a second straight win after being swept at last-place Cincinnati, Milwaukee pulled within three games of National League Central-leading Chicago.
"This was kind of 'backs against the wall, last stand,'" Shaw said. "If we come in here and lose two of three, that might be it. So it's a big series for us. We're right back to where we need to be."
Eyeing Sunday's series finale, Arcia added, "We have to sweep here, we have to sweep the next series. To us, we have to sweep every series. We have to win every game, especially against these guys [the Cubs] because we're chasing them."
The Cubs know the Brewers aren't going to go quietly.
"To me, I'd say they're playing like a team that's trying to get in," Chicago's Jason Heyward said. "That's what September baseball is about. ... We're all playing like we're trying to get in, showing up every day like we're the team to beat. Some days you're going to get beat. It's going to happen."
Chase Anderson retired the first 10 batters he faced before he walked Kris Bryant with one out in the fourth. One out later, Ben Zobrist singled for the only hit off the right-hander, who threw 67 pitches in five innings before the Brewers made an early call to the bullpen. Anderson helped himself with a run-scoring squeeze bunt in the third and an RBI single in the fifth, one of his two hits.
Kyle Schwarber homered with one out in the eighth for the Cubs, who avoided being shut out for a second straight game. Before Saturday's game, manager Joe Maddon was lamenting that the Cubs needed to get their "offensive mojo back." He may be right.
"It started out bad, it got worse, and eventually we didn't get anybody hurt, so that's probably the biggest positive tonight," Maddon said.
The Brewers have scuffled offensively as well and entered averaging 2.9 runs per game over their last 16 contests. But they sent 11 batters to the plate in the third, knocking starter Mike Montgomery out after he failed to retire the first four batters in the inning. The 15 runs were the most scored against the Cubs this season.
The Brewers learned earlier Saturday that Nelson has a partially torn labrum and strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, both season-ending ailments.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED On a roll: The Brewers loaded the bases for the second time in the game in the third, and Shaw, the only left-handed bat in the lineup, then lined a double down the right-field line to drive in two and chase Montgomery. Justin Grimm took over and Ryan Braun scored when a balk was called against the Cubs reliever. Jesus Aguilar added an RBI single, and the Brewers loaded the bases again as Manny Pina singled and Keon Broxton walked. Arcia then hit a two-run double for a 6-0 lead. Another run scored on Anderson's sacrifice bunt, which was the first out in the inning. Perez's sacrifice fly made it 8-0.
"The third inning was our best offensive inning of the year, for me," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "There wasn't a home run in there. Guys grinded out some at-bats. Walks, opposite-field hits, two-strike hits, a safety squeeze. We executed so well in that inning, and on a day like today with the wind [blowing in], that's how you have to score runs."
The Cubs now have given up at least eight runs in an inning four times this season, and all four instances have come against NL Central teams in games at Wrigley Field.
"It's just disappointing," Maddon said. "We've had that game way too often this year. ... The big inning we've given up has really made for some awkward days for us this year."
Sparkplug: Brewers leadoff man Perez had quite the day, going 2-for-4 with the sac fly, a two-run homer in the fifth and a two-run single in the sixth -- not to mention a walk leading off the Brewers' big third. The blast in the fifth was his first home run since Aug. 27, and came off a curve from rookie Rob Zastryzny. The fifth-inning rally extended the lead to 11-0, matching the Brewers' season high for runs, and the sixth-inning rally pushed them into new territory.
"It gives us the confidence we had earlier in the season when we were scoring all of those runs," said Arcia, who drove in Milwaukee's 12th run with a single. "It kind of brings it back to the team. Now tomorrow is a new game and you have to bring that confidence back."
"It's hard to explain it, but we're not playing any easy teams out there. Play a good game and you've got a chance to win. We've played good games the past two days." -- Counsell, on his team winning six of eight from the Dodgers, Cardinals and Nationals, then getting swept by the Reds before winning two in a row from the Cubs
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The offensive surge in the third marked the third time this season the Brewers have scored eight runs in one frame. They also scored eight in the fifth inning on May 13 against the Mets, and in the second inning on July 14 against the Phillies.
Schwarber took over at catcher in the eighth inning. It's the fourth game he's been behind the plate (and first since June 13), which is notable because he missed nearly all of last season after tearing two ligaments in his left knee. His home run was his 25th, and the Cubs now have two left-handed hitters with at least 25 for the second time in franchise history. Besides Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo this year, George Altman (27 homers) and Billy Williams (25) did so in 1961.
WHAT'S NEXT Brewers: The Crew will go for a three-game sweep Sunday at 1:20 p.m. CT behind Zach Davies, who is 8-2 with a 2.10 ERA in 15 starts on the road this season, and 9-4 with a 2.37 ERA in his last 14 starts overall.
Cubs:Kyle Hendricks will make his 21st start of the year and 12th at Wrigley Field on Sunday in the series finale. Hendricks did not get a decision in his last start against the Pirates, giving up two runs over 6 2/3 innings. This will be his fourth start against the Brewers this season. So far, he's 1-0 with a 5.06 ERA.