CHICAGO (AP) — Starlin Castro desperately wanted to get his 200th hit of the season in front of a supportive crowd at Wrigley Field.
Playing in the Chicago Cubs’ home finale, Castro got hits in his first two at-bats to reach 199. But after that, he was walked intentionally, grounded out and then walked again in his final plate appearance in the eighth inning of Wednesday’s 7-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.
“I was excited to try and do it here, to try and see what the fans would do,” Castro said.
Now he’ll move on to St. Louis and try to reach the milestone.
The 21-year-old Castro is bidding to become just the fifth major league player since 1940 to collect at least 200 hits while being 21 years old or younger, the Cubs said in citing the Elias Sports Bureau.
The list is impressive: Alex Rodriguez (1995), Garry Templeton (1977), Vada Pinson (1959) and Al Kaline (1955).
In his final at-bat, Castro had a 3-0 count but didn’t get the green light to swing from manager Mike Quade because the Cubs were so far ahead.
“The game is not even close. If you swing at that pitch and miss, the other pitch (might be) in my back,” Castro said.
That’s how Quade saw it, too.
“If you see someone cut lose with that kind of lead, the next one might be in his ribs,” Quade said. “Then he’s got no shot to get to 200. He’ll get it, knock on wood.”
Matt Garza pitched a six-hitter for the Cubs, his second complete game of the season and the first one as a winner. He also went the distance in a 1-0 loss to the White Sox in July.
Quade said he even asked Garza, who was up before Castro’s last at-bat, to strike out and avoid hitting into a double play that could deprive Castro of one more chance.
But Garza did swing and grounded out to the pitcher.
“I’m trying to hit, too,” Garza said. “I want 20 wins. I want 200 innings. I want 200-plus strikeouts. I was in my mode, so I’m going to go out there and compete. I’m not going to just give up.”
What about Castro’s quest for 200?
“I know he has six more games to get it,” Garza said. “I’m pretty sure he’s going to do it. That’s all I have to say about that.”
Garza’s pitching and Marlon Byrd’s three-run homer prolonged the Brewers’ chase to nail down the NL Central.
The loss left the Brewers’ magic number for winning the division title and closing out second-place St. Louis at three. The Cardinals played the New York Mets on Wednesday night.
Garza (9-10), 3-0 in his last five starts, allowed just an unearned run and struck out 10 in pitching his second complete game this season and eighth of his career. He walked one in a 123-pitch effort.
“There was no way I was coming out of this thing,” Garza said.
The Brewers dropped two of their games against the Cubs and finished 39-42 on the road. They now go to Miller Park to wind up the regular season with a six-game homestand against the Marlins and Pirates beginning Friday.
“It’s nice to clinch at home, but I really don’t care,” Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. “I just want to get it. We would have loved to have done it here.”
DJ LeMahieu broke a 1-all tie with two-out, two-run double in the fifth off Randy Wolf (13-10) on a ball center fielder Nyjer Morgan appeared to lose in the sun.
Byrd’s three-run shot, his ninth homer of the season, followed singles by Jeff Baker and Geovany Soto in the sixth.
Wolf, who entered the game with a 1.37 ERA in three previous starts this season against the Cubs, allowed 10 hits and six runs in six innings.
He said his cut fastball not the same after he was hit in the wrist with a pitch by Garza while attempting to bunt in the third inning. He said the wrist was stiff, but he expected to be OK in a couple of days.
“I don’t know how much it affected me throwing. My cutter after that wasn’t really the same, but it wasn’t painful, so I could battle through it,” he said.
“For the most part after that, it was OK, not great, but that one inning, I’ve got a couple of dunk hits and I left a cutter out with Marlon and he punished it.”
Wolf said the chance to clinch at home and claim the franchise’s first division title since 1982 – the only time the Brewers made the World Series – will more than make up for the wait.
“Definitely we want to get it over with. I think the one thing that was a possibility that we really didn’t want was to clinch on our off-day (Thursday). That would have been anticlimactic,” he said.
“It will be great to do it at home so we can spray some of the fans with champagne, that’s something they’ve been dying for. Something I definitely want to do to them. Not in a bad way,” he said.
NOTES: Castro has reached base in 34 straight games, matching the Cubs’ record for a shortstop set in 1929 by Woody English. … Cubs 3B Aramis Ramirez sat out with a leg injury in what could have been his final home game for the Cubs. … A crowd of 30,965 gave the Cubs a home attendance for 2011 of 3,017,966. It marked the eighth straight season the Cubs have drawn more than 3 million fans. Chicago finished 39-42 at home.
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