Brewers try to move a step closer in Chicago

With tomorrow's off day, there is a chance that the Milwaukee Brewers could clinch their first division title in 29 years without getting to celebrate on the field.

That won't matter one bit to the club.

Milwaukee tries to lower its magic number for claiming the National League Central crown this afternoon in the finale of a three-game series with the Chicago Cubs.

The Brewers bounced back from dropping Monday's opener with a 5-1 victory over the Cubs last night. The win lowered their magic number to clinch the division to three, as they lead St. Louis by 5 1/2 games.

A victory today, as well as losses by the Cardinals to the New York Mets tonight and Thursday, would lock up Milwaukee's first division title since winning the AL East back in 1982.

Would winning it off the field make it any less special?

"We'd be happy as heck," third baseman Casey McGehee told "Obviously, everybody would probably prefer to have it happen on the field after winning a game, and not have to sit around and watch [someone else], but we've worked so hard this season to try to get ourselves in position to have it be even a possibility that we'll take it any way we can get it."

Shaun Marcum did his part for the Brewers in Tuesday's win, hurling eight innings of one-run ball. He was backed by a pair of RBI from Rickie Weeks and a run-scoring double from Corey Hart as Milwaukee moved to 5-1 on a six-game road trip.

"I just wanted to get back to what I was doing my last two starts," Marcum said. "It's nice to get the win, but more important to go out and get back to locating all my pitches and keeping everything down in the zone."

Starlin Castro knocked in Chicago's only run with a homer as he continues his outstanding season. He is three hits shy of 200 for the year, and his 336 hits are the most by a Cub in team history over his first two seasons to start a career.

Castro has also reached base safely in 33 straight games, the longest such streak by a Chicago player since Jerome Walton's 43-game run in 1989. Woody English has the longest stretch by a Cubs shortstop, reaching base in 34 consecutive games back in 1929.

Chicago could play its final home game of 2011 without third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who left last night's game with a right quad strain.

The Brewers' Randy Wolf tries to record his highest single-season win total since claiming a career-high 16 victories in 2003 when he takes the mound today. The left-hander has won two straight and seven of his last eight decisions to move to 13-9 with a 3.45 earned run average in 31 games this season.

Wolf is coming off a victory over Cincinnati on Friday in which he allowed three runs on seven hits over seven innings. He also struck out seven and did not issue a walk.

The veteran held the Cubs to just one earned run in a victory when he last faced them on Aug. 26 and has a 1.97 ERA in three starts against them this year. Wolf is 6-10 with a 4.01 ERA lifetime when facing Chicago, which counters with Matt Garza.

Garza has not factored into the decision of his last two starts since winning two in a row. He lasted nine innings versus Houston on Friday, yielding three runs on seven hits in his club's eventual extra-inning victory.

The right-hander is 8-10 with a 3.51 ERA in 29 starts this year, including a 2.67 ERA in 16 outings at home. He has split two career starts versus Milwaukee while recording a 7.71 ERA.

Milwaukee has won seven of its last eight versus Chicago, but has won just twice in six games at Wrigley Field this year.