After losing consecutive nail-biters in a matchup of NL Central contenders, Kyle Schwarber made sure the Chicago Cubs could breathe easier in the series finale.
Schwarber hit a grand slam and a three-run homer to power the Cubs past the Milwaukee Brewers 11-4 on Sunday, averting a three-game sweep. The Cubs moved into a first-place tie with St. Louis, with Milwaukee one game back.
"It's nice to be able to hop out to a lead," Schwarber said. "That was a really big game for all of us. We had a couple tough ones."
Schwarber crushed a first-pitch slam deep into the second deck in right field off starter Zach Davies (8-4) with one out in the second inning for his 23rd home run of the season.
"It started with (Schwarber)," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "That set it up."
The slugger took Davies deep again in the fourth with an opposite-field shot to make it 7-0.
After the Brewers cut it to 7-3 in the fifth, Schwarber's infield single with two outs in the sixth kept the inning alive for pinch-hitter Victor Caratini, who hit a three-run homer off Milwaukee reliever Jeremy Jeffress.
Schwarber, who has struggled at the plate lately, reached base all four times while batting eighth in the lineup.
"He's going to definitely feel better about himself," Maddon said. "It's been a tough July for him overall."
Christian Yelich's run-scoring double in the fifth, which extended his hitting streak to 16 games, chased Cubs starter Jose Quintana, who failed to get the win despite being staked to a seven-run lead. Quintana gave up four hits and three runs in 4 2/3 innings.
Brad Brach (4-3) retired the only batter he faced for the victory.
Davies was coming off his worst start, when he allowed seven runs in four innings of a 14-6 loss to Cincinnati on Tuesday. This time, he gave up seven runs and four hits in five innings. He had permitted only one earned run in 12 innings against the Cubs this season prior to Sunday.
"Obviously, I need to do better," Davies said. "We played really good baseball the last two nights. I struggled today and put us in a hole."
Cubs: LHP Cole Hamels, on the 10-day injured list with a left oblique strain, gave up three runs and three hits, including two first-inning homers, over three innings in a 59-pitch rehab outing for Triple-A Iowa. "We'd like to believe that his next start would be with us," Maddon said before the game.
Brewers: RHP Corbin Burnes, on the IL with right shoulder irritation, pitched one shutout inning with a strikeout for Triple-A San Antonio on Saturday night. "His next outing will be two innings and then we'll decide after that what's going on," manager Craig Counsell said. ... RHP Jimmy Nelson, on the IL with fluid in his right elbow, gave up four hits and four runs in 1 2/3 innings for San Antonio on Sunday.
Schwarber's slam, the second of this career, traveled a projected 473 feet, the longest home run at Miller Park this season. It was the seventh grand slam by the Cubs this season. Taylor Davis, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora Jr., Willson Contreras, Javy Baez and Anthony Rizzo have the others.
Maddon praised his team's overall offensive effort, including Ian Happ drawing three walks batting in front of Schwarber, who beat out an infield single.
"I don't want to just be home run-reliant," Maddon said. "I don't want us to do this new wave, analytical baseball that just tries to put balls in the seats all the time. I want baseball properly played. I want us to be fundamentally sound, and that includes offense."
HOME RUN HAVEN
Miller Park continues to be conducive to long home runs, Maddon insisted.
"This ballpark is like a driving range the way the ball comes off the bat," he said. "It's incredible. I don't know what it is. It just comes off hot and it goes far easily in this ballpark."
Keston Hiura's hitting streak was halted at 15 games. The Brewers rookie hit a walk-off, two-run homer on Saturday night.
Cubs: Yu Darvish (3-4, 4.54 ERA) starts the opener of a three-game set at St. Louis on Tuesday night. Adam Wainwright (7-7, 4.63) pitches for the Cardinals.
Brewers: Counsell hadn't announced who will take the mound Tuesday night at Oakland against Chris Bassitt (7-5, 4.09 ERA) in the opener of a three-game series.