NL Central is up for grabs now

Maybe the moral of the story is not to make the Milwaukee Brewers mad.

Back on July 6, the Brewers laid an 11-6 waxin' on the Cubs in a makeup game they were none too pleased to be playing, especially since it didn't rain during the afternoon of the “rainout.”

They came to town this weekend upset that the Cubs moved Friday's game from daytime to night to give themselves a few extra hours of shut-eye after a Thursday night game in Pittsburgh.

The Brewers won Friday night's game 2-0, and then they really took it to the Cubs Saturday, beating them 15-2 at Wrigley Field.

The good news for the Cubs is that they're still in first place with a record of 77-65, 3 games better than the Brewers (74-68).

The defending-world-champion Cubs still would seem to be the favorites, but Cubs starting pitcher Mike Montgomery provided a sobering warning. Montgomery lasted only 2-plus innings, as he gave up 4 runs in the Brewers' 8-run third inning. Reliever Justin Grimm gave up the other 4.

“I think it just kind of reminds us that these guys, they don't look at us as the team to beat,” Montgomery said. “They think they're the team to beat, and they come to play, and they act like it. It just kind of reminds us that we've really got to bring it against them.”

Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward, a leader on last year's World Series team, seemed amused by the question of who's who in the National League Central.

“I don't know about anybody playing like they're the team to beat,” Heyward said. “I just know about playing baseball, and we're playing for an opportunity to get to the playoffs. Last time I checked, last night was a 2-0 ballgame. To me, if anything, I'd say they're playing like a team that's trying to get in.”

The bottom line is this: The Cubs entered the weekend with a 5-game lead over the Brewers and Cardinals after the Brewers had just gotten swept by lowly Cincinnati. Now the division is in play.

“We missed an opportunity in Cincinnati,” said Brewers third baseman Travis Shaw. “That's kind of obvious. Other than that series, we have been playing pretty well. This was kind of backs-against-the-wall, last stand, if we come in here and lose two out of three that might be it.”

Instead of putting this division away, the Cubs now have to be prepared for the race going right down to the wire.

“Yes, I am, absolutely, I am,” said manager Joe Maddon. “I take nothing for granted, ever. They have some really good pitching on the Milwaukee side. I know they scored all those runs, but their starting pitching — they're missing (injured Jimmy) Nelson now — but their starting pitching's good. They've got really good arms in the bullpen. I think that's the one thing that nobody talks about with them enough. I think their pitching is solid, and they catch the ball on defense, too.”

Game on.

• Follow Bruce's Cubs and baseball reports on Twitter @BruceMiles2112.

Chicago Cubs' Justin Grimm adjusts his cap after being called for a balk against the Milwaukee Brewers during the third inning on Saturday in Chicago. Associated Press
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