CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Cubs tried to throw a party. Pinch-hitter Scooter Gennett had other ideas.
Gennett hit a tiebreaking, two-run double in the seventh inning, and the Milwaukee Brewers spoiled the Chicago Cubs’ first opportunity to clinch the NL Central title with a 5-4 victory Thursday night.
Chicago (93-53) was hoping to begin a 10-game homestand with a boozy celebration of its first division title since 2008. But Keon Broxton homered and Orlando Arcia drove in two runs for Milwaukee, making the Cubs wait for the result of St. Louis’ game at San Francisco to find out if their season-long dominance of the Central was complete.
The crowd of 41,362 cheered loudly when Hunter Pence’s two-run homer in the first inning against the Cardinals was shown on the video board in left field.
Jorge Soler hit a two-run homer for the Cubs, who had won three of four. Mike Montgomery pitched six solid innings and helped himself with a tying single in the fourth for his first career hit.
Justin Grimm (1-1) replaced Montgomery in the seventh and the Brewers put runners on first and third with one out. Gennett, batting for Jimmy Nelson (8-14), blooped an 0-2 pitch into the corner in left for a 5-3 Milwaukee lead.
The Cubs got one back on Jason Heyward’s RBI double in the eighth, but Tyler Thornburg threw a called third strike past pinch-hitter Willson Contreras with runners at the corners to end the inning.
Thornburg also worked the ninth for his 10th save in 15 chances.
Nelson won for only the second time in his last 11 starts as Milwaukee (66-81) improved to 4-4 on an 11-game trip. The right-hander allowed eight hits, struck out seven and walked two.
Even with the loss, it’s only a matter of time before Chicago clinches the division. But the NL Central crown is not how this group of Cubs will be judged, not this year. After running roughshod over the rest of the majors for most of the season, Anthony Rizzo and Co. are trying to end the franchise’s famous championship drought, going all the way back to when the Cubs beat the Tigers in the 1908 World Series.
“We’ve got a lot ahead of us. We really do,” president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said before the loss. “It kind of all boils down to how you perform in October.”
Brewers: RHP Michael Blazek (right forearm strain) threw a simulated game. Manager Craig Counsell would like to get Blazek into some games before the end of the season, but he said there’s no rush. “The goal with Mike is just to go into the offseason healthy,” Counsell said.
Cubs: RHP Pedro Strop, who tweaked his right groin while working his way back from arthroscopic left knee surgery, threw a bullpen session and said it went well. “He’s getting close,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s not far off.”
Cubs RHP John Lackey (9-8, 3.35 ERA) is scheduled to face RHP Chase Anderson (8-11, 4.53 ERA) in the second game of the four-game set on Friday afternoon.