Cubs 2, Brewers 1: North Siders win their fourth series in a row

MILWAUKEE — Oops, they did it again.

The runaway-train Cubs — where the heck did this come from? — just can’t stop winning series.

Since a 10-game losing streak completely buried them in the standings, the Cubs have won five series and lost only one — and their improbable series winning streak reached four Wednesday with a 2-1 victory against the Brewers in the finale of a three-game set.

Outplaying the Braves, the Cardinals, the Red Sox and now the National League Central leaders? You have to admit, it’s kind of impressive.

The Cubs also won a series against the Reds in this stretch, which is sort of like beating a boxer with two broken hands via split decision. And they lost three of four against the Pirates, which is sort of like bending over to pick up a quarter and splitting your $100 pants.

All together, though, an 11-8 stretch starting in mid-June has been a pleasure and a pick-me-up — even if it doesn’t really mean much of anything in the context of the rest of the season, with the Aug. 2 trade deadline looming and the Cubs (34-48) all but certain to toy with fans’ emotions all over again.

“We’ve been in almost every game all the way along,” manager David Ross said, “with a couple extra-inning games that we didn’t pull out. If not [for that], we’d be on a long little roll here.”

It was enough to give the Cubs the idea they could send Adrian Sampson (Cubs wins: one, in 2021) to the mound against Corbin Burnes (Cy Youngs: one, in 2021) and snag another “W” in a rubber match.

The Brewers (47-37) had every reason to win this game. Burnes was at his lights-out best, striking out 10 in seven scoreless innings. Left fielder Keston Hiura made one of the plays of the year in the big leagues, running down a P.J. Higgins drive in deep left and crashing face-first into the wall — at full speed — in the top of the fifth. Hiura then led off the bottom of the inning and launched a 440-foot rocket off Sampson for a 1-0 lead.

But Sampson held his own, lasting two outs into the sixth. Rookie Christopher Morel tripled to right-center — missing a homer by maybe 2 inches — in the eighth and came home on a Rafael Ortega single, with both hits coming off reliever Brad Boxberger, who’d had 10 scoreless outings in a row. And then the Cubs got to money-in-the-bank lefty Josh Hader in the ninth, a major feat all by itself. Patrick Wisdom took a leadoff walk, stole second and scored on P.J. Higgins’ one-out double to right.

“I didn’t quite barrel it,” Higgins said, “but a knock’s a knock. I’ll take it.”

Who are these no-name dudes? How are they pulling this off?

“Everyone feels it,” Sampson said. “We want to win each series. Two out of three, three out of four, something like that. You don’t have to talk about it, but it’s something everyone feels. I was happy to get the ball in Game 3. I was like, ‘I want to win the series today.’ That’s all I was thinking. I know everybody was feeling the same way.”

It was a fun series. In certain moments, it almost felt like a big series. Ross went so far as to say that some of these recent games — the wins against teams with postseason aspirations, teams that will be buyers and not sellers up until the trade deadline — have had playoff vibes.

Really? Playoffs? These Cubs? That’s a pretty big stretch considering they’re not going to come anywhere close to a winning record in the end.

“I don’t care about the outside expectations,” Ross said. “I don’t care about the expectations from anyone outside of this small circle that we have as the Cubs organization. If it gets to a place where we’re not expecting to win on a daily basis or get better, or hold those standards to competing and trying to become a championship baseball team again, then I don’t want to do this.”

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