Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Matt Garza, left, catcher Geovany Soto, center, and center fielder Marlon Byrd celebrate their 7-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.
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 pitched a six-hitter and Marlon Byrd 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 played the New York Mets 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 broke a 1-all tie with two-out, two-run double in the fifth off Randy Wolf (13-10). Center fielder Nyjer Morgan appeared to lose the ball in the sun and the drive scored Alfonso Soriano, who had singled, and Starlin Castro, 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 and Geovany Soto 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 led off with a single and Garza plunked Wolf. Corey Hart 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. Castro's 199th hit of the season scored Bryan LaHair, 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."