Brewers beat up Lester, top Cubs 8-5 to narrow WC lead
Tyler Austin drove a pinch-hit, three-run homer during the Brewers' five-run fourth inning against Jon Lester, and Milwaukee beat the Chicago Cubs 8-5 Sunday to tighten the NL wild-card race.
Milwaukee won the series 3-1 and pulled within two games of the Cubs for the second NL wild card with three weeks left. The Cardinals are 4 1/2 games ahead of Chicago for the NL Central lead.
Staked to a 3-1 lead, Lester (12-10) allowed RBI hits to Ryan Braun and Hernan Perez before Austin delivered his fourth pinch homer this season. Eric Thames added a solo shot off Lester in the sixth, and pinch-hitter Tyrone Taylor added an RBI single off Duane Underwood Jr. for his first major league hit.
Milwaukee's Brent Suter (1-0) followed starter Adrian Houser and pitched scoreless ball across the fifth and sixth innings.
Jason Heyward hit a two-run homer off Milwaukee reliever Jimmy Nelson in the top of the ninth. With one out and a runner on, Brewers manager Craig Counsell brought on closer Josh Hader, who pitched the final two innings and got the win Saturday night. Hader struck out the final two batters for his 29th save in 35 chances.
Cubs shortstop Addison Russell was hit in the face by a 94 mph fastball from Houser. The pitch seemed to catch him on his left cheek, knocking his helmet off. He fell to his knees, holding his head, but eventually was able to compose himself and walk to first base accompanied by manager Joe Maddon and two trainers.
Russell keyed a three-run rally before Ian Happ replaced him in the field. Russell stole second with a head-first slide and later scored on right fielder Christian Yelich's throwing error. Lester and Ben Zobrist each had a run-scoring double.
The Cubs are already missing two-time All-Star shortstop Javier Báez, who is out indefinitely with a hairline fracture in his left thumb.
Danny Hultzen, in his long-awaited major league debut, hit Yelich in the left hand with a 94 mph slider that deflected and hit homeplate umpire Will Little just above his right knee. Catcher Willson Contreras caught Little as he turned and buckled over. After a brief delay, Little went back behind the plate. A 64-second review confirmed that Yelich had been hit.
Hultzen was the second overall pick by Seattle in the 2011 draft but was beset by injuries in the minors. Each of the first 29 players selected that year have now appeared in a major league game.
Lester allowed eight runs and seven hits, walked three and struck out seven in 5 1/3 innings.
Cubs: 3B Kris Bryant got the game off. He's been dealing with a sore right knee for more than two months. He added to the aggravation by fouling a pitch from Hader off his right leg in the eighth inning of Saturday's loss.
Brewers: Braun was back in the lineup after a day off to rest his sore back. ... RHP Brandon Woodruff (left oblique strain) threw a bullpen and is ready to face live hitters.
Cubs: RHP Kyle Hendricks (9-9, 3.39 ERA) makes his 27th start of the season and 15th on the road Monday night against RHP Cal Quantrill (6-6, 3.45 ERA) and the San Diego Padres. Cubs are 3-0 in his last three starts.
Brewers: RHP Jordan Lyles (10-8, 4.46 ERA) makes his second career appearance and first start against RHP Robert Dugger (0-1, 4.00 ERA) and Miami at Marlins Park on Monday night.