CHICAGO (AP) — The last day of August and first day of September looked awfully familiar to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Christian Yelich hit a three-run homer off Craig Kimbrel in the ninth inning, and Milwaukee beat Chicago 4-0 on Sunday for its second straight shutout against the Cubs.
The Brewers leaned on their bullpen and timely hitting by Yelich to rally to the NL Central title last year, and they used a similar recipe to take two of three at Wrigley Field this weekend.
“When your guys in the bullpen do an incredible job, it works out well,” manager Craig Counsell said, “and that’s what happened the last two days.”
Milwaukee pulled within three games of Chicago for the second NL wild card. The Brewers had dropped four of five before limiting the Cubs to six hits in Saturday’s 2-0 victory.
A day later, it was the same story.
After Gio González walked four in three hitless innings, Jay Jackson (1-0) got six outs for his first major league win. Drew Pomeranz got two big outs in the eighth before Josh Hader finished the four-hitter.
The Brewers were clinging to a 1-0 lead before Yelich connected with two outs in the ninth, driving a full-count pitch deep to center field . It was the first homer for the reigning NL MVP since Aug. 17 at Washington and No. 42 on the year.
“It had been a little while,” Yelich said. “It had been a little frustrating. I got that one pretty good.”
Yu Darvish was slated to start for Chicago, but the Japanese right-hander was scratched with right forearm tightness. Darvish was coming off perhaps his best performance with the team, pitching eight sparkling innings in a 5-2 victory over the New York Mets on Tuesday night.
Darvish has been dealing with the issue for about five starts, and manager Joe Maddon said he thinks the pitcher will be able to take his next turn in the rotation Saturday at Milwaukee.
“Just like a precautionary thing,” Maddon said.
The Cubs then lost All-Star shortstop Javier Báez to a jammed left thumb. He got hurt on a slide into second in the third inning and could get a day off on Monday.
“During the game, my thumb was getting sorer and sorer and it was kind of hard to squeeze my glove,” he said. “It was getting worse. But I feel good. The X-ray was negative. We’re going to take it day by day.”
Tyler Chatwood (5-3) replaced Darvish and allowed the game’s first run on Orlando Arcia’s groundout in the fourth. Ben Gamel set up the play when he went from first to third on Cory Spangenberg’s one-out single to left-center.
The Cubs left nine on base and went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position. Kris Bryant led off the eighth with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. But Junior Guerra fanned Victor Caratini before Pomeranz struck out Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward to end the inning.
Cubs utilityman Ben Zobrist did not play in his first game since he was activated from the restricted list Saturday night. He was standing in the on-deck circle when Tony Kemp lined out to right to end the game.
Zobrist left the team in May to be with his family while he was going through a divorce.
Milwaukee designated Jeremy Jeffress for assignment after the reliever played a key role in the Brewers’ run to the NL Championship Series last year. The right-hander has struggled this season, going 3-4 with a 5.02 ERA and spending time on the injured list.
Brewers: 3B Mike Moustakas (left palm, wrist) was out of the starting lineup for the fifth straight game. He pinch-hit in the sixth and fouled out. … Rookie INF Keston Hiura has a Grade 2 left hamstring strain. He got hurt on Friday, and president of baseball operations David Stearns said Hiura is expected to be sidelined for two weeks. … RHP Jimmy Nelson (elbow soreness) and LHP Brent Suter (Tommy John surgery) were reinstated from the 60-day injured list.
Cubs: INF Daniel Descalso was activated from the 10-day IL. He had been sidelined by a sprained left ankle.
Brewers: RHP Adrian Houser (6-5, 3.52 ERA) starts Monday against Gerrit Cole (15-5, 2.85 ERA) and Houston. Houser left Tuesday’s 6-3 loss to St. Louis because of left hip discomfort. Cole is 11-0 with a 2.06 ERA in his last 16 starts.
Cubs: RHP Kyle Hendricks (9-9, 3.47 ERA) faces Seattle on Monday in the opener of a two-game set. Hendricks went 1-1 with a 5.20 ERA in five August starts. LHP Justus Sheffield (0-1, 7.94 ERA) makes his third career start for the Mariners.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
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