CHICAGO (AP) — The way Kyle Schwarber was hitting the ball, Joe Maddon felt he had no choice but to keep him in the lineup.
Schwarber continued his offensive surge with two hits and two RBIs to back Jon Lester, and the Chicago Cubs beat the San Francisco Giants 7-3 on Friday for their eighth win in nine games.
Schwarber, who had homered the previous two games, scored two runs to help put the Cubs 1 1-2 games ahead of San Francisco for the second wild card. They also moved 12 games over .500 (60-48) for the first time since the 2008 NL Central championship season.
Schwarber’s latest outburst came after Maddon juggled the lineup to keep him in there. He started in left field, one of several switches that left struggling shortstop Starlin Castro the odd man out, at least for now.
“It’s a nice compliment,” he said. “I’m going to do whatever I can to help this team win.”
Schwarber doubled and scored in the first inning, then drove in two and came around to score in the fifth. The Cubs scored five runs in that inning to break open a 1-1 game.
Dexter Fowler homered and had three of Chicago’s 12 hits.
Jorge Soler chipped in with a single and two-run double. Chris Coghlan added two singles and an RBI, and Hector Rondon worked the final 1 2-3 innings for his 18th save in 21 chances.
Lester (7-8) gave up two runs and six hits over seven innings. He walked two and struck out three after finishing with a season-high 14 strikeouts against Colorado last week.
Tommy Hunter gave up a leadoff homer to Nori Aoki in the eighth that cut it to 6-3. Rondon came in with a runner on second and retired the final two batters before working the ninth for his second save in as many games.
San Francisco’s Ryan Vogelsong (7-8) got a rather quick hook filling in for Mike Leake, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday because of a strained left hamstring.
The Giants fell to 3-5 on a 10-game trip.
“There’s a lot of baseball left and that’s enough said,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “This is a tough group and we’ll find a way to come out of this.”
Vogelsong lasted four-plus innings, allowing three runs and six hits.
He left with runners on second and third in the fifth after Addison Russell singled and Fowler doubled off the wall in right field.
Jeremy Affeldt came in, and Schwarber, who raised his average to .345, drove a two-run single off the glove of a diving second baseman Kelby Tomlinson.
That made it 3-1 and the Cubs were not finished.
Affeldt walked Kris Bryant with two outs to put runners on first and third, and Soler followed with a two-run double down the left-field line against Yusmeiro Petit. David Ross drove him in with a single to boost the lead to five before Lester — the inning’s ninth batter — struck out.
Castro, the three-time All-Star, no longer seems to be the undisputed everyday shortstop.
Maddon wanted to keep going with the scorching Schwarber. That meant a few switches, with catcher Miguel Montero back from a sprained left thumb.
His return created a bit of a crowd behind the plate with Schwarber and Ross in the mix.
Schwarber moved to the outfield after catching Thursday, with Coghlan at second. Russell, the prized rookie, started at his natural shortstop position and will play there Saturday, Maddon said.
“We just played well today, did a lot of nice things,” Maddon said.
Bochy called the atmosphere at Wrigley Field for this series “great,” although he did object to one thing — the loud pre-game music from the new videoboard in left field. It drowned out his pregame media session in the dugout.
“Are people hard of hearing in Chicago?” he asked. “The music’s not bad, it’s just the loudness.”
Giants: Leake, whose hamstring tightened during routine sprints Monday at Atlanta, threw before the game. Then, the Giants decided to put him on the DL.
Cubs: Montero was activated from the DL before the game.
RHP Kyle Hendricks (5-5, 3.67 ERA) starts for Chicago with RHP Matt Cain (2-2, 4.91) pitching for the Giants.