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MIL@CHC: Marcum hurls eight frames of one-run ball

CHICAGO -- With seven games to play, the Brewers are moving closer to uncharted territory.

Well, territory that hasn't been charted in nearly three decades.

After a 5-1 victory over the Cubs on Tuesday, Milwaukee's magic number for clinching the National League Central fell to three, with the Cardinals winning their third straight game. The Brewers are setting the stage for their first division title since 1982, when they clinched the American League East en route to the Milwaukee franchise's first and only World Series appearance.

"We're just staying calm," center fielder Nyjer Morgan said. "It's still a fun, easygoing clubhouse. We're just worried about what we can take care of that day. Obviously, we know what's going on."

After the game, the Brewers watched from the visitor's clubhouse at Wrigley Field as the Cardinals put up 11 runs on the Mets to keep the magic number at three.

"We're not worried about that," Morgan said. "We know [the Cardinals] are hot over there, but we can only worry about what the Brew Crew is doing."

Leading the charge for the Brewers on Tuesday night was starter Shaun Marcum -- who rebounded from his last two starts, during which he posted a 7.71 ERA, giving up 10 earned runs over 11 1/3 innings. This time, however, he tossed eight innings of one-run ball, allowing five hits with seven strikeouts and no walks.

Next to Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy, Morgan has the best view of Marcum's stuff from his post in center field. Marcum threw only one pitch at 88 mph and one at 89. Everything else sat at 87 or slower and moved like mad.

"It's nasty," Morgan said. "That ball was moving today. It was real sharp, late. Like Marlon Byrd, a great hitter, he could hardly pick it up. [Marcum] pitched a great game there, and the S.W.A.T. team was there, too, to put some runs up on the board for him."

Marcum led the charge for that "S.W.A.T. team" when he knocked a one-out double in the third inning, igniting a four-run rally. Marcum's base hit was the first of four consecutive hits that scored three runs.

Corey Hart followed with a double, and Morgan and Ryan Braun hit back-to-back singles. Braun later scored on Rickie Weeks' single to left.

"Basically, [Marcum] got it going for the S.W.A.T. team, and we just followed it up from there," Morgan said. "When everything is going right, it's a beautiful thing to watch."

The right-hander's lone blemish came on Starlin Castro's leadoff homer in the sixth inning. It was Castro's 197th hit of the season.

"His pitches were down in the zone," manager Ron Roenicke said. "Really, when he came out, he was hitting spots right away. He gets in trouble when he gets a little bit up, just like the home run to Castro -- that was up. When he's down, he's good."

"I just wanted to come out and get back to what I was doing prior to these last two starts," Marcum said. "That's locating, keeping everything down in the zone. We were able to do that tonight. It's obviously nice to get the win on top of that."

The Brew Crew squashed any hopes of a Cubs rally in the eighth inning, when pinch-hitter Reed Johnson hit what would have been a double to left-field. Braun played the ball perfectly as it hopped off the ivy wall and made a pinpoint throw to Weeks to get Johnson at second.

"That's a real nice play there," Roenicke said. "That's a tough wall to play because you don't know how it's coming off the ivy. Then he comes up and makes a perfect throw to second. I thought it was a big play to shut down any momentum that they were going to get."

The Brewers will wrap up their final regular-season road trip Wednesday afternoon before returning home for a six-game homestand. With an off-day Thursday, the Brewers could potentially clinch while idle.

Either way, it doesn't matter. They just want the title as soon as possible.

"If you're asking if I'm anxious to clinch the division, yes, certainly," Roenicke said. "We want to go out and play to hopefully win it right away. We're certainly not going to go out there and save anything. That just sets up things better when you do that. Plus, I just like to stay on a nice roll." Comments