MILWAUKEE -- There are only nine games left and the Chicago Cubs are well out of the race, but they have no intentions of going down without a fight, especially to a division rival.
Thanks to home runs by Luis Valbuena, Nate Schierholtz and Brian Bugosevic and a masterful pitching performance from Jake Arrieta, Chicago avoided a four-game sweep by the Milwaukee Brewers with a 5-1 victory on Thursday afternoon at Miller Park.
"(It means) a lot," said Cubs manager Dale Sveum, whose team is in last place in the National League Central, 25 games below .500 and 25 1/2 games behind front-running St. Louis. "We played a good, clean game and swung the bats well, had 13 hits. It's big to not get swept."
While the Cubs' bats broke out of a three-day slump -- Chicago was outscored 17-4 in the first three games at Milwaukee -- with 13 hits, Arrieta got into a groove and retired 11 straight after opening the game with a walk to Norichika Aoki.
Arrieta equaled his season high by going seven innings and held the Brewers to one run and three hits with five strikeouts.
"It was pretty much just good control from start to finish," Arietta said. "I established a good, quality fastball and worked off-speed off of that. We had a nice roll going today."
Carlos Gomez broke the shutout in the seventh, leading off with a solo home run to center -- his 21st of the season -- but Jeff Bianchi was left stranded after a two-out double.
"The command of his fastball was good, but by far that was the best curveball he's had," Sveum said. "He could throw it for a strike, he could throw it down and in or go backdoor if he wanted to. His cutter or slider, whatever you want to call it, he had great command of that down and in to the lefties -- they were fouling it off their feet. Everything was working really well. He hung that one cutter to Gomez, but other than that, a lot of weak contact."
Valbuena hit his 12th home run of the season with one out in the first inning when Milwaukee right-hander Kyle Lohse hung a 1-1 slider.
In the second, Schierholtz made it 3-0 Chicago with a two-run shot to right center, giving him a career-high 21 homers this season.
Both Logan Watkins and Anthony Rizzo had three hits for the Cubs, who also got two from Junior Lake.
Chicago added a run in the sixth when Brewers reliever Burke Badenhop missed the easy out at home on Arrieta's sac bunt and threw to first instead.
Lohse was done after five innings. He gave up three runs, seven hits and a walk with four strikeouts. Lohse hasn't won since Aug. 20 and is 1-2 with a 5.04 ERA in four starts since.
"He struggled with his command and threw a lot of pitches in five innings," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said.
The veteran right-hander was unhappy with home plate umpire Chad Fairchild, who allegedly made a comment to Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado regarding Lohse's attitude on the mound.
"Not a whole lot of it was me. When you have an umpire that says your grumpy face is going to cost you strikes, you've got issues," said Lohse, who added that Fairchild's comment came after Schierholtz's home run. "I wasn't as consistent as I wanted to be, but I made a lot of really good pitches and I guess I looked funny out there and wasn't going to get the calls.
"I've been around long enough, you've got to make pitches. The first home run, I missed location and threw a pitch that came right back into him. Schierholtz's at-bat, there were a couple of pitches in there that changed the whole complexion of the game really. When you change a count from 1-2 or 2-2 possibly to 3-1, I'm not going to walk a guy, but I'm not getting that low, outside corner. I'm going to challenge a guy and I got beat there. I still have to make a pitch. He put a good swing on it. That changes the whole ballgame right there, especially when you have a guy throwing the ball as well as the other guy was. It puts you in too big of a hole on a day like today."
Bogusevic put the Cubs up 5-1 with a solo home run in the ninth off Brewers reliever Donovan Hand.
NOTES: Injured Brewers 1B/OF Corey Hart visited with his teammates before the game. Hart has missed the entire season after surgeries on both his knees. In the last year of a three-year contract, Hart said he would be willing to take a discount to remain with the Brewers, who took him in the 11th round of the 2000 draft. ... Sveum said he plans to use RHP Pedro Strop in save situations for the rest of the season. RHP Kevin Gregg is 32-for-37 in save opportunities but is a free agent after the season and the Cubs are interested in Strop, who was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles earlier this season in a trade for pitcher Scott Feldman. ... SS Jean Segura and OF Khris Davis were not in the Brewers' lineup. Segura strained a hamstring in the first inning on Wednesday and is day to day and Davis is still nursing a sore left wrist that has limited him to three games since Sept. 4. ... Cubs C Welington Castillo left the game with right knee soreness in the sixth inning. He will be evaluated by team doctors on Friday in Chicago.