Thanks in part to sensational work by the rotation, the Chicago Cubs have extended their hold on the NL's second wild-card spot during their best stretch of the season.
Dan Haren now hopes to continue that trend as he tries to lead the Cubs to their 11th win in 12 games in his home debut Tuesday night against the NL Central-worst Milwaukee Brewers.
Chicago (62-48) was six games back of Pittsburgh and 2 1/2 behind San Francisco in the wild-card race July 28 after its starting staff had a 7.84 ERA over a 2-5 stretch.
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Since then, the rotation has posted a 2.23 ERA over 11 games. Jake Arrieta provided the latest gem Sunday, allowing four hits over 7 2-3 innings in a 2-0 home win over the Giants.
By completing the four-game sweep, Chicago moved within 3 1/2 games of the Pirates while creating a 3 1/2-game gap over San Francisco. The team also has trimmed its deficit behind division-leading St. Louis from 11 1/2 to 8 1/2.
''What we have to do now is just continue to make it difficult for the guys ahead of us and continue to show we're going to put pressure on and not let up," Arrieta said.
The only game the Cubs have lost during their hot stretch came Wednesday in Haren's debut. After being acquired from Miami on July 31, the right-hander allowed three earned runs and two homers over five innings but did not factor in a 7-5 defeat at Pittsburgh.
Haren (7-7, 3.49 ERA) has gone 1-2 with a 5.86 ERA in five starts at Wrigley Field. He hasn't pitched there since August 2013, when he gave up one run over six innings in Washington's 4-2 win.
After going 2-0 with an 0.90 ERA in his first three starts versus Milwaukee, he allowed six runs - three earned - in three innings of a 7-2 loss last August with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Cubs limited the Brewers (48-65) to eight total runs in sweeping a four-game series at Miller Park from July 30-Aug. 2. They haven't won five straight over Milwaukee since 2008, the last season in which they were 14 games over .500 and the last time they reached the playoffs.
"We won a lot of tight games up there," manager Joe Maddon told MLB's official website. "We did a lot of things well in Milwaukee and that really kind of pushed us back in the right direction.
The Brewers were blanked in back-to-back games by St. Louis before salvaging a 5-4 home win Sunday. Khris Davis hit a pair of two-run homers, including a go-ahead shot in the eighth inning. He has four home runs and 12 RBIs over his last six games and is 3 for 4 with a double off Haren.
"When he gets into these good streaks, he can win games for you," manager Craig Counsell said
Milwaukee might not need a scoring outburst for rookie right-hander Taylor Jungmann (6-3, 2.26), who has gone 4-2 with a 1.90 ERA over his last six starts.
After yielding two earned runs over 5 2-3 innings in a 4-1 loss to Chicago on July 31, he gave up two runs over seven while fanning a season-high eight in Wednesday's 8-5 win over San Diego.
Anthony Rizzo has hit .391 with 10 home runs and 24 RBIs over his last 19 games versus Milwaukee, though rookie Kris Bryant is 3 for 32 with 17 strikeouts in the season series.