CHICAGO (AP) — The Milwaukee Brewers showed last year they know how to finish strong.
They are hoping for a repeat performance this season.
Manny Piña drove in two runs with a first-inning single and Josh Hader closed out a strong performance by Milwaukee’s bullpen, helping the short-handed Brewers beat the Chicago Cubs 2-0 on Saturday.
Ben Gamel had three hits for Milwaukee, which had dropped four of five. Gamel was recalled from the minors before the victory.
Milwaukee pulled within four games of Chicago for the second NL wild card. The Brewers rallied to the NL Central title a year ago, chasing down the Cubs in the last part of the season.
“It’s not magic; it’s playing good baseball,” manager Craig Counsell said. “We’re capable of that, and that’s what it’s gonna take.
“That’s what we did today.”
The Brewers used five pitchers in the six-hitter. Zach Davies worked 4 2/3 innings before Matt Albers finished the fifth. Drew Pomeranz got two outs and Junior Guerra (8-4) worked 1 2/3 innings of hitless ball.
Hader then earned his 27th save, recording five outs on just 12 pitches. The All-Star left-hander struck out two.
Ryan Braun, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas and rookie Keston Hiura were out of Milwaukee’s starting lineup. Braun pinch-hit in the sixth and Cain entered in a double switch in the bottom of the eighth.
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo had two hits in his return after missing the previous five games with mid-back tightness.
Chicago wasted a solid performance by Cole Hamels (7-5), who allowed five hits in six innings. The Cubs had won four in a row.
Gamel led off the game with a double to left. One out later, Christian Yelich and Yasmani Grandal drew back-to-back walks to load the bases. Piña then singled to center.
“After that first inning, when he was missing a little bit, he kept getting better,” manager Joe Maddon said of Hamels.
Despite pitching a shutout, Davies was lifted before he qualified for the win. Hamels doubled with one out in the fifth and Jason Heyward followed with a lineout to first base. Counsell then brought in Albers to face Nicholas Castellanos, who flied out to right to end the inning.
The Cubs loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth, but Guerra retired Addison Russell on a comebacker to end the inning.
“You kind of knew going in it was gonna be that style of a game because from here on out every game is important,” Davies said. “You don’t want to put more emphasis over these games, but these games are the only games you have left.
“There comes a time when you have to put the foot on the gas and start to go.”
Hiura, who left Friday’s game in the sixth, was placed on the 10-day injured list with a left hamstring strain.
“He’s going to play again this year, but he’s going to miss some time,” Counsell said.
The Brewers also recalled Gamel and infielder Travis Shaw from Triple-A San Antonio. Right-hander Devin Williams was sent down.
ON HIS WAY
The Cubs activated Ben Zobrist from the restricted list Saturday night to help with their postseason push. The 38-year-old Zobrist has been out since May 8 while going through a divorce.
Infielder David Bote was optioned to Triple-A Iowa. Outfielder Mark Zagunis was designated for assignment to create a spot on the 40-man roster.
Brewers: LF Braun (back) and CF Cain (sore left knee) both are day to day, and it’s uncertain when they might return to the starting lineup. Moustakas (left palm, wrist) likely will be out a few more days.
Cubs: C Willson Contreras (right hamstring strain) went 0 for 1 and was hit by a pitch Friday night in a rehab game with Triple-A Iowa. He was expected to play again Saturday night.
Cubs right-hander Yu Darvish (5-6, 4.25 ERA) faces Brewers left-hander Gio González (2-2, 4.34 ERA) Sunday in the series finale. Darvish is coming off perhaps his best start of the season, allowing one run in eight innings in a victory over the Mets. González was roughed up by St. Louis on Monday, allowing nine runs in five innings.