MILWAUKEE -- The Cubs found themselves another step closer to clinching the National League Central. The Brewers found themselves in third place.
Pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella worked a bases-loaded walk from Brewers All-Star closer Corey Knebel in the top of the 10th inning, and Carl Edwards Jr. finished a 5-4 Cubs win on Friday night at Miller Park in the teams' second straight extra-innings thriller.
The victory pushed Chicago five games up on the rest of the NL Central, with the Cardinals in second place after they beat the Pirates, and the Brewers, reeling in the wake of three straight heartbreaking losses, are 5 1/2 games back.
The Cubs' magic number to clinch the division for a second consecutive season is 5. Does manager Joe Maddon feel his team is in control of the Central?
"No," Maddon said quickly. "Let's go play [Saturday's] game. I'm interested in one-game winning streaks. We've had two of them. I want another one-game winning streak [Saturday]. That's how I look at it."
The 81-73 Brewers also slipped behind the 81-72 Cardinals in the chase for the second NL Wild Card. The Rockies led by 1 1/2 games over the Cardinals with the Brewers two games back after Colorado's victory in San Diego.
"These have been two good baseball games. It's no fun losing them," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "It certainly stings this time of year, where we're at, what we're trying to do and what we've done so far. But ... it's not over. Not even close. We have eight games left. We have to look at it as opportunity."
For the second straight night, nine innings were not enough. Ryan Braun had two hits for the Brewers and teamed with Travis Shaw for back-to-back two-out doubles in the fifth inning for a 4-4 tie that lasted into the 10th. Knebel, out to the mound for a second inning and pitching for the fourth time in five days, walked Kris Bryant to open the frame as the Cubs loaded the bases with no outs. Knebel struck out Leonys Martin for the first out of the inning, but then walked La Stella on five pitches to force home the go-ahead run.
"He has not played in a bit," Maddon said of La Stella, who has been bothered by a mild groin strain. "He goes out there, and he was not too eager. He slowed everything down, and accepted his walk. That's the thing -- with young baseball players today, many are not willing to accept their walk in that situation."
Given Knebel's recent workload, did Counsell have to think twice before sending out his closer for a second inning?
"It's certainly not ideal but with who they had coming up, and he only threw nine pitches in the previous inning, that's where the decision sat," said Counsell, who acknowledged the risk. "We can wait until the next game and not know what the game is going to be like, or we can pitch him there and know he's our best guy to put up a zero."
John Lackey and Brandon Woodruff started the game, but it was decided by the bullpens. While Knebel absorbed the loss, his second in three days, Edwards won with 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. Cubs relievers held Milwaukee hitless after the fifth inning.
Maddon said he pulled Lackey after the right-hander gave up a leadoff single to Eric Sogard in the fifth because it wasn't "trending well."
"I felt I was throwing the ball OK," Lackey said. "I gave up a couple homers [to Stephen Vogt and Brett Phillips in the second]. I felt it was going pretty good. … I felt like I threw a little better the last couple innings. The biggest thing is we won the game."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Wait for your pitch:Jon Jay's remarkable, 15-pitch at-bat against Woodruff sparked a rally for the Cubs in the fifth inning. After 10 consecutive foul balls, Jay lined a single to right field. Woodruff then hit Bryant with a pitch, and, with lefty Josh Hader ready in the Brewers' bullpen, both runners advanced on Anthony Rizzo's groundout before scoring on Ben Zobrist's bouncer into center field for a 4-3 lead.
"It was a great AB. I give [Jay] a lot of credit," Counsell said. "Anybody who fouls off that many pitches -- an at-bat like that takes a piece of the pitcher."
"That really hurt their pitcher," Maddon said of Jay's at-bat. "Jon Jay, this guy lives for these moments. That's what I've learned during the course of this season. He's fine. He slows things down really well. He loves to compete. He doesn't care who's pitching, righty or lefty, it doesn't matter, velocity, breaking balls, it doesn't matter. He just competes."
It was the fifth longest plate appearance of Jay's career.
Returning the favor: Zobrist was robbed in each of his first two at-bats before getting revenge. In the second inning, Braun made a diving catch of Zobrist's fly to shallow left field to take away one hit, and in the third, Sogard robbed Zobrist of a hit and an RBI with another diving catch of a flare. So it must have felt sweet in the bottom of the fourth when Zobrist raced into shallow center field to make an over-the-shoulder catch of Domingo Santana's fly for a run-saving, inning-ending out that kept the Cubs' deficit at 3-2.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
When Vogt and Phillips hit back-to-back solo home runs in the second inning, Milwaukee tied and surpassed the 1982 American League champion Brewers for the second highest home run total in franchise history. This year's edition has cleared the fence 217 times. The Brewers will have to keep hitting them to reach their all-time record (231), set in 2007 when Prince Fielder led the way with 50.
"This is the time of year you play for. All of your offseason workouts, Spring Training -- this is what you've worked for your whole life since you were a little kid. Now it's go time. Things are meaningful in September. That's what we want, these last games to mean something. -- Brewers catcher Jett Bandy
"We get hit a little bit to the solar plexus, but we still keep going. [The Cubs' players] were good the whole night. The attitude in the dugout is spectacular. We get behind and everything is going [the Brewers'] way but not one guy felt down about it. It was wonderful to watch all of that." -- Maddon, on the attitude in the dugout
AFTER FURTHER REVIEW
For the second straight night, the ninth inning began with a disputed call at first base. On Thursday, Ian Happ legged out an infield grounder to the first baseman and wound up scoring the tying run in a game the Cubs won in 10 innings. On Friday, Javier Baez was initially called out on a similar play, with Knebel covering the bag. But the Cubs challenged and the call was overturned, giving Baez a hit, and the Cubs another leadoff baserunner. He was promptly erased when Knebel induced a big double play, and the rally fizzled.
The headsets were back on the field in the bottom of the 10th, when Sogard tried to take second base on a pitch in the dirt and was called out when he lost contact with the bag. Catcher Willson Contreras retrieved the ball and made a perfect throw to shortstop Addison Russell, who kept his glove on Sogard. Counsell went out to argue that Sogard had been pushed off the bag, then challenged after that argument went nowhere. The call was confirmed.
"I'm pretty sure he's still out on the replay but there's no harm at that point," Counsell said.
Said Sogard: "Checking the cameras after the game there was no evidence to really overturn it, so I think that was kind of the issue there. It's just unfortunate, just kind of how things have been kind of going this series."
Maddon was impressed with Contreras' throw as well as Russell's tag.
"Game on the line right there, really in that situation I'm looking at Sogard to see what his first move is," Russell said. "We saw a ball down on the ground in the dirt and I saw him break for the bag and I broke for the bag. Willie did a good job of seeing that whole play out and delivering the throw. I made sure I kept the tag on him and he came off the bag. Sogard was going 100 percent right there. He happened to come off the bag. I kept the tag on him."
WHAT'S NEXT Cubs:Kyle Hendricks gets the early wake-up call on Saturday. The right-hander is 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA in four starts against the Brewers this season. Since coming back from the disabled list, he's 3-2 with a 2.42 ERA in 11 starts. First pitch was scheduled for 12:05 p.m. CT at Miller Park.
Brewers: Quick-working lefty Brent Suter will make his 21st appearance and 13th start on Saturday as the series continues. Suter is still building his pitch count after returning from a rotator cuff injury, but should be good for at least 75-80 pitches after throwing 64 last time out against the Pirates. Preview >>