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Cubs take 1st in National League Central with 11th-inning win over Brewers

MILWAUKEE, WI - JUNE 11: Anthony Rizzo #44 of the Chicago Cubs hits a home run against the Milwaukee Brewers during the 11th inning at Miller Park on June 11, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

MILWAUKEE — Remember, it’s only June.

The atmosphere was lively at Miller Park on Monday night. But with three-and-a-half months to go in the season, an early summer battle for first in the National League Central needs some perspective.

Even a sweep by either team isn’t going to rock either the Cubs or the Brewers as they reach the middle of June. Yet the teams put on a late-season show to begin their series in Milwaukee in the first game of the season in a back-and-forth match-up where the teams were tied or within a run the entire way.

As they have before in this run of success, the Cubs had some heroics late into the night to claim the top of the division.

Starting with a towering homer from Anthony Rizzo to start the 11th inning, the Cubs would get four more runs to complete a 7-2 victory over the Brewers to take first place in the National League Central. It’s the first time the Cubs have led the division by themselves since April 30 as they went up by a half-game over Milwaukee.

Rizzo’s first hit of the night and 12th homer of the year started the big inning, which was followed by RBI singles from Ben Zobrist and Albert Almora, Jr., and finally a two-run double by Jason Heyward. All five runs helped the Cubs improve their record to 38-25 with two games remaining against Milwaukee on Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon.

Eric Kratz got the scoring started with a long homer to center off Jose Quintana in the third inning to make it 1-0, but the Cubs got it back on the fifth on a hit by Almora. Jonathan Villar got it right back with a solo blast in the bottom half of the inning off Quintana, but that was all the pitcher would allow in a quality start.

Willson Contreras nearly tied it in the top half of the sixth, but a homer was taken away by Ryan Braun, who leaped up to make the catch at the top of the wall.

Junior Guerra (six innings, one run) gave way to Josh Hader in the seventh and the Cubs finally broke through in the eighth against the reliever. Jason Heyward’s single to right brought home Ben Zobrist from first, but the Cubs missed out on a big inning as Kyle Schwarber grounded out with the bases loaded to end the inning.

Things were quiet until the 11th inning when Rizzo sent a towering blast down the line in right for the homer to leadoff the inning against Matt Albers. After getting two outs, Javier Baez got on base with a walk and then Addison Russell was hit by a pitch to get a pair of runners on for Zobrist, who then slapped a single into right to make it 4-2. Almora added one to the same part of the field for his second RBI on the night. Heyward got his second and third with a double to left that completed the scoring.

Monday night provided an entertaining start to a highly anticipated series at the dawn of summer.