Jon Lester hit his first major league homer and struck out nine to reach 2,000 for his career, helping the Chicago Cubs to a runaway 16-4 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. But he was pulled in the fifth inning.
Anthony Rizzo went deep twice and Ian Happ and Javier Baez also connected as Chicago kicked off a six-game homestand with its 14th win in 17 games since the All-Star break. Rizzo, Baez and Albert Almora Jr. each drove in three runs, and Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras had two RBIs apiece.
The World Series champions stayed 2 1/2 games ahead of second-place Milwaukee in the NL Central. Hector Rondon (3-1) got five outs for the win, and Mike Montgomery pitched three innings for his third save.
Adam Rosales had two hits and two RBIs in his first game with Arizona after he was acquired Monday in a trade with Oakland. Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock contributed two hits apiece, but the Diamondbacks were unable to overcome Patrick Corbin's worst start in weeks and a rough performance by their bullpen.
Corbin (8-10) lasted just three innings in his shortest outing of the season. He allowed eight runs, seven earned, and 10 hits after going 2-1 with a 2.59 ERA over his previous four starts.
Arizona lost for the third time in four games and fell a half-game back of Colorado for the top spot in the NL wild-card standings.
Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta (10-7, 4.03 ERA) tries to build on an impressive July when he starts the second game of the series Wednesday night. Right-hander Zack Godley (4-4, 3.06 ERA) pitches for the Diamondbacks. Arrieta went 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA in five starts last month. Godley pitched seven sharp innings in a 4-0 victory at St. Louis on Thursday.
>>Brewers Edge Cardinals
Jimm elson finally beat St. Louis with six strong innings in the Brewers' 3-2 victory.
Nelson (9-5) entered 0-8 with a 7.01 ERA in 11 appearances (10 starts) against the Cardinals. This time, the right-hander overcame his division rival by allowing just two runs on six hits with seven strikeouts.
The Brewers' bullpen kept the Cardinals off the scoreboard for three innings, including Anthony Swarzak striking out the side in the eighth after Josh Hader issued a leadoff walk.
Left fielder Ryan Braun and shortstop Orlando Arcia collided and allowed Stephen Piscotty to reach on a single with one out in the ninth, but Corey Knebel worked around the miscue to earn his 19th save.
The Brewers scored their three runs in the first inning off Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez (7-9) and had just two infield singles the rest of the game.
Eric Sogard scored on a groundout by Braun, and Domingo Santana snapped Milwaukee's 0-for-33 skid with runners in scoring position with a two-out RBI single up the middle. Manny Pina followed with a double to center to plate Santana and make it 3-0.
A two-out RBI single by Yadier Molina and another by Tommy Pham in the fifth pulled St. Louis within 3-2.
Nelson worked out of the inning by getting Paul DeJong to fly out with two on and then pitched a scoreless sixth.
Martinez settled in to get through five innings. He escaped further damage in the fifth by inducing a grounder to third base by Santana with the bases loaded.
Martinez has a 6.55 ERA (16 runs in 22 starts) in opening frames.
Luke Weaver (0-1, 4.50 ERA) will make his second start of the season in place of the injured Adam Wainwright. He allowed four runs in five innings in a 4-0 loss to Arizona on July 27.
Brent Suter (2-1, 2.40 ERA) will move up in the rotation to start on regular rest Wednesday. Since joining the Brewers rotation July 3, Suter is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in five starts.
>>Blue Jays Double Up White Sox
A heated exchange between Toronto's Marcus Stroman and Chicago's Tim Anderson was one of the few tense moments in a rather routine win for Toronto.
Justin Smoak hit his 31st homer, Josh Donaldson homered and drove in three runs, and the Blue Jays beat the White Sox 8-4 on Tuesday night.
Smoak and Donaldson each connected for the second straight night and third time in five games. Donaldson also had a sacrifice fly and RBI double.
Stroman (10-5) went seven innings, allowing four runs and seven hits. He was winless in his previous three starts despite a 1.89 ERA in that stretch.
Stroman exchanged words with Anderson as he batted leading off the seventh. They continued to go at it as Anderson walked back to the dugout after striking out.
The situation quickly cooled after both benches and dugouts emptied. Anderson was restrained, but there were no ejections.
Chicago's Kevan Smith hit a two-run homer batting for injured designated hitter Matt Davidson in the sixth. But the White Sox lost for the 18th time in 22 games.
Donaldson connected in the first and added a sacrifice fly in the third to give the Blue Jays a 2-0 lead.
Chicago's Omar Narvaez tied it with a two-run double in the fourth, but Smoak's two-run drive just beyond a leaping center fielder Leury Garcia with two outs in the fifth made it 4-2.
The Blue Jays added three more in the sixth while chasing Mike Pelfrey (3-9) after he retired the first two batters. Russell Martin hit a two-run, bases-loaded single off Gregory Infante, and Donaldson drove an RBI double off the center-field wall to make it 7-2.
Pelfrey gave up six runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Toronto and Chicago wrap up a three-game series, with J.A. Happ (3-8, 4.15 ERA) starting for the Blue Jays and Derek Holland (5-10, 5.42) pitching for the White Sox in a matchup between left-handers. A 20-game winner last season, Happ is 0-3 in his past four outings. Holland has an 8.54 ERA in his past 11 starts.