Chicago’s 6-3 win against Pittsburgh on Thursday, coupled with San Francisco’s 7-3 loss to Houston, pushed the Cubs a half-game ahead of the Giants for the wild card.
The Cubs have won 12 of 15 after spending much of the year battling to stay above the .500 mark.
“I think we should have been doing this all year,” Chicago reliever Kent Mercker said. “Better late than never, I guess.”
Greg Maddux reached 15 wins Thursday for a record 17th consecutive season, and 200 innings for the 16th time during that stretch.
“You always have your goals,” Maddux said. “One of them is always to win 20. but you always have a goal to pitch 200 innings. If you can go out there and get your 200 innings, you have to be doing something right.”
Maddux also hit a two-run single in a four-run second inning for the Cubs, who completed their third series sweep of the Pirates this year.
After this series, the Cubs finish the season at home with four games against Cincinnati and three against Atlanta.
New York comes into this series having avoided last place in the NL East— for the time being, at least.
The Mets won the last two of their three-game set against Montreal, including a 4-2 victory Thursday, to stretch their lead over the last-place Expos to three games.
New York, swept in a three-game set at Chicago from April 23-25, has lost eight of nine to the Cubs dating back to last season.