Ian Happ hit a solo homer and an RBI double in consecutive innings to lead the visiting Chicago Cubs past the St. Louis Cardinals 8-2 Friday night.
The Cardinals (90-70), however, maintained their one-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers (89-71) in the National League Central. The Brewers lost Friday to the Colorado Rockies in Denver.
Milwaukee’s loss lowered the Cardinals’ magic number to win the division to two with two games to play.
Cubs reliever Brad Wieck (2-2) earned the victory by getting one out in the sixth inning. Cardinals reliever Andrew Miller (5-6) took the loss.
Both starting pitchers set career highs in strikeouts. Dakota Hudson worked five scoreless innings for the Cardinals and struck out 10. But he walked five batters (one intentionally) and needed 97 pitches to get 15 outs.
Alec Mills struck out nine batters in five innings for the Cubs (83-77), and he allowed Matt Carpenter’s solo homer in the fourth inning.
But Happ greeted reliever Giovanny Gallegos with a leadoff home run in the sixth inning to tie the game 1-1. He also delivered the go-ahead hit as the Cubs surged ahead 8-1 in the seventh off Miller and Ryan Helsley.
Ben Zobrist drew a leadoff walk, moved to third on Willson Contreras’ bloop single, and scored on Happ’s RBI double. Contreras scored on Miller’s wild pitch.
When Miller hit Victor Caratini with a pitch, Helsley replaced him and made things worse. He allowed Nico Hoerner’s RBI single, Robel Garcia’s three-run homer and Zobrist’s RBI single as the game got out of hand.
Yadier Molina hit a RBI single in the bottom of the seventh to cut the lead to 8-2.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon is sitting out many veterans this weekend, including corner infielders Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. Both are recovering from sprained ankles.
Outfielder Nicholas Castellanos bowed out of Friday’s announced lineup due to a tight groin muscle. Outfielder Jason Heyward also got the night off, and infielder Javier Baez (hairline thumb fracture) was again limited to pinch-running.
Outfielder Albert Almora Jr. exited the game in the sixth inning after suffering a leg injury.
Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong (hamstring strain) missed his seventh straight game.