With Jake Arrieta pitching, it might be difficult to beat Chicago no matter where that game is played.
Chicago's ace allowed two singles and struck out seven in six innings in a 6-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night. But Chicago failed to gain ground in its bid to host the wild card contest after the Pirates beat Cincinnati 6-4 in 12 innings in Pittsburgh.
The Pirates held on to a two-game lead with two games left in the regular season.
Arrieta (22-6) seems like he's already locked in on Pittsburgh.
"I don't have time for that yet," he said when asked to recount his dominant year. "Enjoy the win tonight and start getting ready for Pittsburgh on Wednesday."
Anthony Rizzo had two hits and three RBIs, including a solo homer into the Cubs bullpen in right in the fourth off Ariel Pena (2-1).
Milwaukee finally broke through after Arrieta yielded to the bullpen in the seventh. Khris Davis hit a homer, his 27th, off Trevor Cahill.
Otherwise, it felt like Wrigley Field North at times, with all the Cubs fans at Miller Park cheering on another dominating outing by Arrieta. The NL Cy Young Award contender improved to 11-0 since Aug. 1, and his season ERA dropped to 1.77.
"Tremendous. Watching him you could see the explosive stuff," manager Joe Maddon said. "If that did not clinch his award, I don't know what would."
Chicago added two runs in the fifth after Milwaukee center fielder Logan Schafer bumped into right fielder Domingo Santana while going for a routine fly ball. The ball bounced off a glove and fell to the ground, allowing Kris Bryant to reach on an error and load the bases for Rizzo.
The left-handed slugger roped a two-run single to center for a 4-0 lead.
Pena allowed four runs, five hits and two walks in 4 1/3 innings. The rookie may have impressed enough in his late-season audition in the big leagues to be in the mix for a spot on the pitching staff in 2016.
"I was pleasantly surprised by what he did," manager Craig Counsell said. "Certainly, we have to be aware of him and he's another option for us."
Davis has been a second-half bright spot for Milwaukee. He hit his 21st homer after the All-Star break, which is second in the National League. The right-handed hitter's hot streak comes at a time when the Brewers have loaded up on promising young outfielders in the minors as the team looks to retool for 2016.
Hitting against Arrieta is about one of the hardest tasks in baseball these days. The righty features a devastating four-pitch arsenal.
"Yeah, and they all look like a strike for a very long time," Davis said. "And then they just explode out. His stuff is electric right now."
Scooter Gennett led off the bottom of the first promisingly enough for the Brewers with a single.
"He gets ahead with a 95-96 fastball which makes hitting hard. You have to pick one pitch, stick with it and hope you hit," Gennett said.
Cubs: Maddon wasn't going to get Arrieta out of his routine even though the Cubs had already clinched a playoff berth, so having his ace skip his start was not an option. "We have to keep him in some sort of routine right now. He's a routine freak," Maddon said.
Brewers: The lineup has been unsettled this season in part because of injuries. The team had used 126 different lineup combinations going into Friday's game, the 160th of the season. C Jonathan Lucroy (toe, concussion) and OF Ryan Braun (lower back) are among key players who have missed time.
Cubs: RHP Kyle Hendricks (7-7) is 1-1 in three starts against the Brewers this season, including a 0.73 ERA in 12 1/3 innings over two starts at Miller Park.
Brewers: It could be a bullpen day on Saturday with RHP Tyler Wagner (0-1) on the hill. He has yet to make it past the fourth inning in either of his two starts.
Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP