Jon Lester combined with three relievers on a four-hitter, David Bote hit an early two-run triple and the Chicago Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-0 on Thursday night to open a one-game NL Central lead over Milwaukee heading into the final weekend of the season.
A day after the Cubs and Brewers assured themselves of no worse than wild-card berths, Lester (18-6) escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first inning and allowed three hits and four walks over six innings. He improved to 6-1 with a 1.71 ERA in his last eight starts.
Steve Cishek, Carl Edwards Jr. and Jesse Chavez followed, with Chavez pitching the ninth for his fourth save in five chances with Chicago.
Chicago (93-66) hosts St. Louis (87-72) in the final series starting Friday while Milwaukee (92-67) is at home against Detroit. The Cardinals (87-72) trail the Los Angeles Dodgers by one game for the second wild-card berth.
The Cubs' win means the NL Central champion, Chicago or Milwaukee, will finish with the league's best record and will play the winner of Tuesday's wild-card game. East champion Atlanta will play the West champion, Colorado or the Dodgers.
Trevor Williams (14-10) gave up all three runs, eight hits and three walks in five innings. He had been 4-0 in six starts since losing to the Cubs on Aug. 17 and is 7-3 with a 1.38 ERA since the All-Star break.
Bote started at third base in place of Kris Bryant, who missed his second game with a sore left wrist after getting hit by a pitch by Chris Archer on Tuesday.
Lester singled in the fourth and scored on Daniel Murphy's single.
Up next for the Cubs RHP Kyle Hendricks (13-11, 3.49) opens the series against the Cardinals vs. RHP Adam Wainwright (2-3, 4.08.) In his last six starts, Hendricks is 4-1 with a 1.37 ERA.