CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Cubs wasted no time building a five-run lead, and once he sensed it slipping away, manager Joe Maddon went out to the mound with a quick hook.
That did not sit well with starter Jason Hammel.
But this did.
Rookie slugger Kyle Schwarber homered in his second consecutive game, and Chicago beat the San Francisco Giants 5-4 Thursday night.
The Cubs, playing meaningful baseball in August for the first time in years, won for the seventh time in eight games. They also moved a half-game ahead of the Giants in the race for the second NL wild card.
Jorge Soler drove in the first two runs with a bases-loaded single in the first inning, and Schwarber made it 5-0 with a three-run drive off Chris Heston (11-6) in the second — his first homer at Wrigley Field. But instead of an easy win, the Cubs had to hang on.
Hammel gave up a two-run homer to Brandon Belt in the fourth and was less than pleased when Maddon lifted him after the right-hander walked the first two batters in the fifth.
“I felt like I’d earned the right to kind of get out of the situation,” Hammel said.
Maddon wasn’t taking any chances with a shrinking lead and a rested bullpen.
“It’s not a lack of confidence (in Hammel) by any means,” he said. “It’s just the moment. Every game has its own unique characteristics.”
The game got tight in the sixth when Brandon Crawford hit a two-run homer off Tommy Hunter to make it 5-4, but the Cubs hung on from there.
Jason Motte and Pedro Strop each worked a scoreless inning. Hector Rondon pitched the ninth for his 17th save in 20 chances.
Hunter Pence had two hits and scored two runs, but the Giants lost for just the sixth time in 22 games.
“They’re a talented club,” San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. “They’ve got a lot of young talent, got a lot of good arms. You saw the arms they’ve got out of the ‘pen — good velocity, good stuff, good lineup. They’re not going anywhere. That’s a good club.”
Heston, tops among major league rookies in wins, went four innings and took the loss after going 5-0 in his previous eight starts for San Francisco. He gave up five runs and five hits, walked two and hit a batter with a pitch.
Hammel allowed two runs and three hits. He exited after walking Ehire Adrianza and Hector Sanchez, but Justin Grimm (2-3) escaped the jam.
Hammel talked to Maddon and insisted they are on the same page. He also thought plate umpire Manny Gonzalez had a tight strike zone.
“I understand the magnitude of the situation,” Hammel said. “As a competitor, I want to be out there and clean up my own mess.”
HE SAID IT
Maddon when asked if fans should temper their expectations with the Cubs in the playoff race for the first time in years: “I’m not into temperance, I guess.”
Giants: RHP Mike Leake will miss a turn in the rotation because of a strained left hamstring. Acquired from Cincinnati last week, Leake was scheduled to make his second start for the Giants on Friday. ... OF Angel Pagan returned to the lineup after missing two games with soreness in his knees.
Cubs: Maddon said C Miguel Montero (sprained left thumb), rehabbing with Double-A Tennessee, is “getting close” to a return from the 15-day disabled list. ... GM Jed Hoyer said INF Tommy La Stella (right rib cage inflammation), on the 60-day DL, will play Friday and Saturday for Tennessee and then be re-evaluated. Hoyer said La Stella is “itching” to return.
LHP Jon Lester (6-8, 3.26 ERA) starts for the Cubs. RHP Ryan Vogelsong (7-7, 4.16) goes for the Giants in Leake’s place.