CHICAGO — Scooter Gennett and the Milwaukee Brewers scuttled the Chicago Cubs’ plans for a big party.
Gennett broke a seventh-inning tie when he drove in two runs with a pinch-hit double, and the Brewers spoiled the Cubs’ first chance to clinch the NL Central title with a 5-4 victory Thursday night.
“You never want to lose a game and see the other team celebrate,” Gennett said. “We want to win ballgames. Unfortunately the situation we’re in, maybe we’ve got to ruin some nights and tonight was an example of that.”
Keon Broxton homered and Orlando Arcia drove in two runs as the Brewers (66-81) won for the first time in seven games this year at Wrigley Field. Jimmy Nelson (8-14) pitched six effective innings and Tyler Thornburg got four outs for his 10th save.
“It was just a flat-out good ballgame,” Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said. “It was obviously, with where they’re at, there was great energy in the park tonight.”
A crowd of 41,362 packed Chicago’s iconic neighborhood ballpark hoping to celebrate the team’s first division title since 2008. But Gennett’s clutch hit made the Cubs (93-53) wait for St. Louis’ 6-2 loss at San Francisco to wrap up the NL Central crown.
It appeared manager Joe Maddon and his players were long gone by the time the Cardinals lost. But there was a loud cheer in the Wrigleyville neighborhood when the West Coast game concluded, and several people honked their car horns.
“This is just the first step,” Maddon said before the Cardinals lost. “I mean, we have much larger baseball fish to fry in our skillet.”
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 Nelson, blooped an 0-2 curveball into the left-field corner for a 5-3 Milwaukee lead.
“I was just trying to put the ball in play,” Gennett said. “He’s a guy who throws a lot of curveballs so it’s important not to get too big or try to do too much. It’s really just, get a good pitch to hit and put it in play.”
The Cubs got one back on Jason Heyward’s RBI double in the eighth, but Thornburg threw a called third strike past pinch-hitter Willson Contreras with runners at the corners to end the inning.
With two outs and a runner on first in the ninth, Thornburg got Ben Zobrist to bounce into a game-ending fielder’s choice.
“That was pretty awesome,” Thornburg said. “I’ve never gotten the opportunity to throw in the playoffs. That’s about as close as I can imagine.”
Nelson won for only the second time in his last 11 starts as Milwaukee improved to 4-4 on an 11-game trip. The right-hander allowed eight hits, struck out seven and walked two.
Milwaukee outfielder Domingo Santana went 2 for 4 with two doubles and scored twice. He is batting .400 (14 for 35) in his last nine games.
Brewers: RHP Michael Blazek (right forearm strain) threw a simulated game. Counsell would like to get Blazek into some games before the end of the season, but 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 and said it went well. “He’s getting close,” 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) in the second game of the four-game set on Friday afternoon.
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