Garza pitches 6-hitter, Cubs stall Brewers

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CHICAGO (AP)—The celebration is taking longer than the Milwaukee Brewers had hoped or expected. Clinching the NL Central will come down to the final homestand of the season after they lost again Wednesday to the Chicago Cubs.

“It’s this way every year when you’re close to winning a division,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said after a 7-1 loss.

Matt Garza(notes) pitched a six-hitter and Marlon Byrd(notes) hit a three-run homer for the Cubs in their Wrigley Field finale.

The loss left the Brewers’ magic number for winning the division title and closing out second-place St. Louis remained at three. The Cardinals beat the Mets 6-5 on Wednesday night.

The Brewers dropped two of their games against the Cubs and finished 39-42 on the road. They now go to Miller Park to wind up the regular season with a six-game homestand against the Marlins and Pirates beginning Friday.

“I’m sure we’re going to go home and play well,” Roenicke said.

“It’s nice to clinch at home, but I really don’t care. I just want to get it. We would have loved to have done it here.”

Garza (9-10), 3-0 in his last five starts, allowed just an unearned run and struck out 10 in pitching his second complete game this season and eighth of his career. He walked one in a 123-pitch effort.

DJ LeMahieu(notes) broke a 1-all tie with two-out, two-run double in the fifth off Randy Wolf(notes) (13-10). Center fielder Nyjer Morgan(notes) appeared to lose the ball in the sun and the drive scored Alfonso Soriano(notes), who had singled, and Starlin Castro(notes), who was intentionally walked as he came to the plate trying for his 200th hit of the season.

“Nyjer, it was one of those tough balls. It didn’t get high enough to go above the sun and just stayed right there in the sun,” Wolf said. “I wouldn’t want to be in center field at that time. It was a tough play.”

Byrd’s three-run shot, his ninth homer of the season, followed singles by Jeff Baker(notes) and Geovany Soto(notes) in the sixth.

Wolf, who entered the game with a 1.37 ERA in three previous starts this season against the Cubs, allowed 10 hits and six runs in six innings.

He said his cut fastball not the same after he was hit in the wrist with a pitch by Garza while attempting to bunt in the third inning. He said the wrist was stiff, but he expected to be OK in a couple of days.

“I don’t know how much it affected me throwing. My cutter after that wasn’t really the same, but it wasn’t painful, so I could battle through it,” he said.

“For the most part after that, it was OK, not great, but that one inning, I’ve got a couple of dunk hits and I left a cutter out with Marlon and he punished it.”

Wolf said the chance to clinch at home and claim the franchise’s first division title since 1982—the only time the Brewers made the World Series— will more than make up for the wait.

“Definitely we want to get it over with. I think the one thing that was a possibility that we really didn’t want was to clinch on our off-day (Thursday). That would have been anticlimactic,” he said.

“It will be great to do it at home so we can spray some of the fans with champagne, that’s something they’ve been dying for. Something I definitely want to do to them. Not in a bad way.”

Castro’s error on a double-play grounder allowed the Brewers to take a 1-0 lead in the third. Yuniesky Betancourt(notes) led off with a single and Garza plunked Wolf. Corey Hart(notes) hit a grounder toward the middle that Castro reached, but the shortstop’s flip was wide of second and Betancourt scored.

Castro made up for it with an RBI single in the bottom half on a hard ball that deflected off third baseman Jerry Hairston Jr.(notes) Castro’s 199th hit of the season scored Bryan LaHair(notes), who led off with a double.

In his final three plate appearances needing one hit to get to 200, the 21-year-old Castro drew an intentional walk, grounded to short and then walked in the eighth.

“I was excited to try and do it here, to try and see what the fans would do,” Castro said.

Cubs manger Mike Quade said when Castro had a 3-0 count in his last at-bat he didn’t give him a green light to try and get No. 200 at home. Not with such big lead.

“If you see someone cut lose with that kind of lead, the next one might be in his ribs,” Quade said. “Then he’s got no shot to get to 200. He’ll get it, knock on wood.”

Quade said he even asked Garza, who was up before Castro’s last at-bat, to strike out and avoid hitting into a double play that could deprive Castro of one more chance.

But Garza did swing and grounded out to the pitcher.

“I’m trying to hit, too, guys,” Garza said. “I want 20 wins. I want 200 innings. I want 200-plus strikeouts. I was in my mode, so I’m going to go out there and compete. I’m not going to just give up.”

NOTES: Milwaukee’s Yovani Gallardo(notes) will make his 33rd start of the season and second of the season against the Marlins in the series opener. He struck out a career-high 13 in his start last Saturday against the Reds. … Castro has reached base in 34 straight games, matching the Cubs’ record for a shortstop set in 1929 by Woody English. … Cubs 3B Aramis Ramirez(notes) sat out with a leg injury in what could have been his final home game for the Cubs. … A crowd of 30,965 gave the Cubs a home attendance for 2011 of 3,017,966. It marked the eighth straight season the Cubs have drawn more than 3 million fans. Chicago finished 39-42 at home. … Garza’s first complete game this season came in a losing effort, 1-0 against the White Sox on July 2.

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