Braun, Brewers rally to beat Cubs, 5-2

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MILWAUKEE (AP)—Ryan Braun(notes) thought he’d homered to give the Brewers a lead. Instead, he rounded the bases like a kid in a wild scramble.

Braun ended up scoring on his double that plated three runs after Darwin Barney(notes) made his second error of the inning, rallying the Brewers to a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Friday night for their 25th win in the last 30 games.

“I don’t know if it was a home run or not. I think it ended up being a Little League home run, but either way, same result for us,” Braun said. “We scored three runs, so it worked out well.”

Everything has so far for the Brewers, who lead St. Louis by 9 1-2 games in the NL Central.

George Kottaras(notes) hit a solo homer for Milwaukee, and Barney’s two mistakes in the fifth cost Chicago, which leads the majors with 110 errors.

He failed to touch first base on a sacrifice bunt by Nyjer Morgan(notes) that moved Corey Hart(notes) to second, then his throw over the head of third baseman Aramis Ramirez(notes) allowed Morgan and Braun to score on Braun’s RBI double that gave Milwaukee a 4-2 lead.

“The first one was tough. I looked at the replay. I thought I was on there. I made a mistake of going back for it. Whether you’re on there or not, when the play is moving quick, sometimes the umpire takes information from all different places. He’s not in the wrong at all. That’s just baseball,” Barney said. “The second was a lack of judgment. I saw Nyjer kind of doing his thing over there, and I thought I could make something happen, and unfortunately I didn’t and put us in a little hole.”

Brewers starter Randy Wolf(notes) (11-8) allowed a leadoff homer to Starlin Castro(notes) before winning his fifth straight.

Wolf left with a man on second and two outs in the seventh for Takashi Saito(notes), who struck out Castro to end the threat. In the bottom of the inning, Prince Fielder(notes) singled in his 101st run this season to make it 5-2.

Francisco Rodriguez pitched a quiet eighth and John Axford(notes) converted his 38th save in the ninth by getting Blake DeWitt(notes) to ground out sharply to Fielder at first on a seven-pitch at-bat with runners at second and third.

“It didn’t work out, but what an at-bat by Blake against that right-hander to end the game,” Cubs manager Mike Quade said. “My goodness.”

The Brewers improved to a majors-best 48-16 at home as they continue to show little signs of slowing down in their quest for their first division title since winning the AL East in 1982 on the way to their only World Series appearance.

“I think things have gone well where we do get a break,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “Sometimes it’s because we’re playing hard and playing aggressive and sometimes it’s just flat breaks, just lucky.”

Castro homered to start a game for the first time in his career and Chicago went ahead 2-0 on Jeff Baker’s(notes) double in the third after an error by Wolf, but Kottaras answered with a towering solo shot in the fourth.

In the fifth, Hart singled to extend his hitting streak to nine and Morgan laid down a bunt that Cubs starter Rodrigo Lopez(notes) (4-5) fielded. Lopez’s throw was just a little low and Barney, who moved from second base to cover first on the play, pulled his left foot off the bag to field it, allowing Morgan to reach.

After a double steal, Braun followed with his double that hit the top of the wall, but landed just below the yellow line. As Braun hustled to second, Barney took right fielder Reed Johnson’s(notes) relay throw and fired over Ramirez’s head into the Cubs dugout.

Third base umpire James Hoye awarded both Morgan and Braun home to give Milwaukee a 4-2 lead.

“We’ve done a really good job of capitalizing on other teams’ mistakes lately and I think that’s one of the biggest reasons why we’ve had the success that we’ve had,” Braun said. “Any time somebody else messes up, we take advantage of it.”

Wolf has been another important reason why the Brewers’ rotation has been so strong. The veteran left-hander who turned 35 on Monday has won five in a row for the first time since pitching for the Dodgers in 2009. He went 6 2-3 innings, allowing one earned run on four hits to lower his ERA to 3.37.

“I always felt that if I was healthy, I had the ability to pitch,” Wolf said. “I can’t believe I’m 35 now, but I actually feel better at 35 than I did at 25. My body feels better, I feel in better shape and I hope that continues.”

NOTES: Brewers RHP Tim Dillard(notes) was optioned to Nashville for 3B Taylor Green. Dillard is expected to rejoin the team in September. … Brewers CF Carlos Gomez(notes) (broken collarbone) will begin a rehab assignment at Class-A Wisconsin on Saturday and is expected to return in four days. … It was Braun’s 40th multihit game of the season. … Wolf’s career-best ERA was 3.20 with the Phillies in 2002. … It was Kottaras’ first home run since June 18. … Saturday’s matchup features Brewers RHP Yovani Gallardo(notes) (14-8, 3.51 ERA) against Cubs RHP Ryan Dempster(notes) (10-9, 4.60).

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