Brewers trim WC lead

Take 3-of-4 from Chicago

AP Photo Milwaukee’s Hernan Perez hits an RBI-single during the fourth inning against the Cubs, Sunday.

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Milwaukee Brewers had a final chance this weekend to deal direct damage to the Chicago Cubs’ grasp on the second NL wild card, and they didn’t waste it.

Tyler Austin drove a pinch-hit, three-run homer during the Brewers’ five-run fourth inning against Jon Lester, and Milwaukee beat the Chicago Cubs 8-5 Sunday to earn another series victory. The Brewers took 3 of 4 at home a week after winning 2 of 3 at Wrigley Field, and that pulled them within two games of the Cubs for the second wild card with three weeks left in the regular season.

“I think that’s what we had to do at a minimum, just to get a little bit closer,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “And, we did it.”

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was succinct in his assessment.

“They beat us. They absolutely beat us,” he said.

“They deserved to win. We didn’t. We’ve got to put it in the rearview mirror quickly.”

The Cardinals are 4 1/2 games ahead of Chicago for the NL Central lead. The Arizona Diamondbacks lost to the Cincinnati Reds 4-3 and are a 1/2 game ahead of Milwaukee in the wild-card chase.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us, but we’ve put ourselves in a very good position,” Counsell said.

Staked to a 3-1 lead, Lester (12-10) allowed RBI hits to Ryan Braun and Hernan Perez before Austin delivered his fourth pinch homer this season. Eric Thames added a solo shot off Lester in the sixth, and pinch-hitter Tyrone Taylor added an RBI single off Duane Underwood Jr. for his first major league hit.

Lester second guessed himself on his approach to Austin.

“That’s a big turning point, anytime you give a three-run homer,” Lester said. “Hard to come back from.”

Milwaukee’s Brent Suter (1-0) followed starter Adrian Houser and pitched scoreless ball across the fifth and sixth innings.

Jason Heyward hit a two-run homer off Milwaukee reliever Jimmy Nelson in the top of the ninth. With one out and a runner on, Brewers manager Craig Counsell brought on closer Josh Hader, who pitched the final two innings and got the win Saturday night. Hader struck out the final two batters for his 29th save in 35 chances.

Cubs shortstop Addison Russell was hit in the face by a 94 mph fastball from Houser. He fell to his knees, holding his head, but eventually was able to compose himself and walk to first base accompanied by Maddon and two trainers.

Russell keyed a three-run rally before Ian Happ replaced him in the field.

Kyle Hendricks (9-9, 3.39 ERA) makes his 27th start of the season and 15th on the road Monday night against Cal Quantrill (6-6, 3.45 ERA) and the San Diego Padres. Cubs are 3-0 in his last three starts. Brewers Jordan Lyles (10-8, 4.46 ERA) makes his second career appearance and first start against Robert Dugger (0-1, 4.00 ERA) and Miami at Marlins Park Monday.