Ryan Braun hits 300th homer, Brewers shut out Cubs
CHICAGO -- As proud as he was to reach an individual milestone, Ryan Braun focused more on the big picture -- a playoff spot for the Brewers.
Braun hit his 300th homer, Jimmy Nelson combined with three relievers on a five-hitter, and Milwaukee beat the Chicago Cubs 2-0 in the first regular-season Friday night game at Wrigley Field.
"It's a really cool number, no question about it -- just the longevity and consistency it takes to get there is something I'm proud of," Braun said. "But obviously with where we're at in the season, we're focused on bigger and more important things."
Braun hit a two-run drive in the first inning against John Lackey. Nelson pitched four-hit ball over five innings before leaving with a jammed right shoulder, and the Brewers opened the weekend series on a winning note after dropping four of five.
Milwaukee pulled within four games of Chicago for the NL Central lead and remained tied with St. Louis. The Cardinals beat Pittsburgh 4-1.
Nelson (12-6) struck out seven and walked two while winning his third straight start. He singled off the left-field wall in the fifth and hurt his shoulder diving back to first after rounding the base.
Nelson pitched the bottom half, retiring Anthony Rizzo on a fly to deep center to escape a first-and-third jam, but felt discomfort. He is scheduled for tests on Saturday, though the Brewers don't think the injury is serious.
"It wasn't like extremely painful," Nelson said. "It was just a weird feeling, just a weird kind of loose feeling so it's just something where they didn't want to push it at that point."
Josh Hader retired the side in the sixth and seventh before walking Jon Jay leading off the eighth. Anthony Swarzak got the next three batters, and Corey Knebel worked the ninth for his 33rd save in 38 chances.
He gave up a two-out single to Jason Heyward before striking out Javier Baez.
"I have nothing to complain about," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I thought we came ready. They came ready. A really good game of baseball. They won."
Lackey (11-11) settled down after Braun connected, holding the Brewers to two runs and four hits over seven innings. He struck out nine and walked two, but Chicago came up short in what was originally scheduled as a day game.
The Cubs, closing in on their third straight playoff berth, got permission from the city to push the start back a few hours because they didn't want a short turnaround coming off a game at Pittsburgh the previous night.
Outscored a combined 21-8 in a three-game sweep at Cincinnati, the Brewers got their runs in the first. Eric Thames doubled off the wall in left-center leading off and Braun hit a two-run shot beyond the shrubs in center field.
Cubs: SS Addison Russell (plantar fasciitis in the right foot) is pain-free and able to do some light jogging as he works his way back from an injury that has sidelined him since early August. He will likely play some simulated games when he's ready, before being activated from the disabled list. ... C Willson Contreras (strained right hamstring) was to be re-evaluated in Chicago after serving as the DH for Class-A Myrtle Beach on Friday.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell had no problem with the Cubs pushing back the start time.
"Sleep is a bipartisan issue, man," he said. "Everybody wants more sleep. Nobody's going to argue against getting more sleep."
The Brewers weren't happy when the Cubs postponed a game in May hours before the scheduled start time. The rain stopped shortly afterward for the rest of that day.
But Milwaukee seemed to be OK with pushing this game back a few hours, even though that helped the Cubs. Counsell said the Brewers -- who were off on Thursday -- probably would have done the same.
LHP Mike Montgomery (5-7, 3.38 ERA) makes another start for the Cubs -- this time with Jake Arrieta hurt, after pitching well in Jon Lester's absence -- while RHP Chase Anderson (8-3, 3.06) goes for Milwaukee. Montgomery is 2-1 with a 2.00 ERA in three starts since being reinserted into the rotation when Lester was placed on the DL on Aug. 18.