Behind another strong plate performance from Jorge Soler and Anthony Rizzo, along with solid pitching from Dan Haren, the Chicago Cubs moved to 63-48 with an impressive 6-3 win that featured Starlin Castro taking over at second base. Coupled with St. Louis' win, the Cubs moved to 2.5 games behind Pittsburgh for the first wildcard spot -- which could give Chicago home-field advantage for the playoff game.
Unlike the meltdown experienced against Philadelphia, the momentum from the Chicago Cubs' sweep of San Francisco continued. Haren, seeking his first win with Chicago, pitched into the sixth inning and produced several great at-bats, which led to Cubs runs. Soler extended his hitting streak to 10 games and drove in two runs, Kris Bryant doubled and scored, and Rizzo continued his tear by going 2-3 with a double and two RBIs. The victory was a much needed statement to critics who figured another sub-.500 team would give Chicago trouble at home.
Milwaukee's future ace, Taylor Jungmann, lasted 2-and-two-thirds innings, walking three and hurling 81 pitches. Before facing the Cubs, he was 4-2 with an impeccable 1.90 ERA over his last six starts. He lost his command early, throwing 43 pitches for strikes and allowing four runs (two earned). Tyler Thornberg relieved the struggling righty and gave up two more earned runs before three other Brewers relievers clamped down Chicago the next four innings.
Starlin Castro, playing his entire career at shortstop, came in for Coghlan at second base. Joe Maddon indicated earlier Tuesday that Russell would be permanently placed at shortstop moving forward, leaving many to speculate Castro's future with Chicago Cubs. With David Ross off bereavement, Tommy La Stella and Matt Szczur were optioned to Triple-A so Castro could move to second, putting Coghlan and Castro in an apparent platoon role.
Wednesday's starters Matt Garza (6-12, 4.95) and Jason Hammel (6-5, 3.17) went opposite directions after their last meeting, with Garza surrendering three Cubs runs in a loss before smacking down San Diego, and Hammel beating Milwaukee before being pulled early in one of the Chicago Cubs' wins against the Giants.
It's unclear whether Ryan Braun will start for Milwaukee, having been held out due to back issues. With Milwaukee clearly out of playoff contention, Manager Craig Counsell may opt to rest his big gun, even though Braun could seek playing time elsewhere this winter.
Just before yesterday's game, long time GM Doug Melvin stepped down and will play an advisory role for the Brewers moving forward.
[Photo by David Banks / Getty Images Sport]