CHICAGO — Kris Bryant said he didn't do anything on Chicago's off day, and it felt great.
Looks as though the rest helped.
Bryant hit a three-run homer, Jose Quintana pitched seven effective innings and the Cubs beat the New York Mets 8-3 on Tuesday night for a sorely needed victory.
"I think we did a lot right today," Bryant said. "Q did great. Some good at-bats. So it's nice to win a game after three not-so-good games."
The Cubs were swept by Milwaukee last weekend, making for a crowded race at the top of the NL Central. The defending World Series champions had Monday off after playing for 20 consecutive days, and they responded with three homers and 11 hits overall in the opener of a three-game set against New York.
St. Louis and Milwaukee also won Tuesday night, so the Cubs remained two games ahead of the Cardinals and 2 1/2 in front of the third-place Brewers.
"I think it's good for baseball," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I think it's good for us. It's good for us to find out what we're all about now and in the future. So there's nothing wrong with a solid pennant race."
Quintana (10-11) also helped himself at the plate with a pair of sacrifices, including a perfectly placed safety squeeze that drove in Kyle Schwarber in the fourth. Quintana got another bunt down in the sixth, sending Javier Baez to third ahead of Ben Zobrist's RBI single.
Asdrubal Cabrera had three hits for New York, but Robert Gsellman (6-7) lasted just four innings. The right-hander walked five and was charged with four runs and five hits.
"It's frustrating when you get behind the batters," Gsellman said. "You try to go out and attack. I had the right mindset today, I was just falling behind and I walked too many guys."
Travis Taijeron's run-scoring grounder put the Mets in front in the fourth, but the Cubs went ahead to stay with four runs in the bottom of the inning.
With two outs and runners on first and second, Bryant drove a 3-2 pitch from Gsellman to left-centre for his 26th homer. Coming into the day, the reigning NL MVP was batting just .176 (6 for 34) with no RBIs in September.
"Obviously, the mistake to Bryant killed him," Mets manager Terry Collins said about Gsellman. "You just can't keep letting leadoff hitters on and beat a team like that."
Schwarber and Ian Happ also homered before Bryant tacked on a deep sacrifice fly in the eighth. Schwarber went 3 for 3 and scored twice in his first start since going 0 for 3 in Thursday's 8-2 win at Pittsburgh.
Quintana improved to 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA in his last three starts. The left-hander allowed two runs and six hits, struck out seven and walked one.
"It was a really good night for us," he said.
Cubs catcher Willson Contreras walked three times and grounded out in his first start since he strained his right hamstring during a 3-1 loss at San Francisco on Aug. 9. He struck out as a pinch-hitter in Sunday's 3-1 loss to Milwaukee.
New York called up catcher Tomas Nido from Double-A Binghamton. The 23-year-old Nido hit .232 with eight homers and 60 RBIs in 102 games with Binghamton.
The Mets also announced they had acquired minor league right-hander Eric Hanhold from Milwaukee as the player to be named in the Neil Walker trade. The 23-year-old Hanhold, a sixth-round pick in the 2015 draft out of the University of Florida, went 8-3 with two saves and a 3.94 ERA in 30 games for Class A Carolina this year.
Mets: Right-handed reliever Erik Goeddel did not travel with the team to Chicago. He was being examined in New York after experiencing dizziness and blurred vision. ... RHP Noah Syndergaard played catch before the game. Syndergaard has been out since May 1 due to a torn right lat muscle. ... INF T.J. Rivera is scheduled for Tommy John surgery on his right elbow this week.
Cubs: RHP Jake Arrieta (right hamstring) threw on flat ground before the game, but there is no timetable for his return. Arrieta hasn't pitched since he left in the third inning of a 12-0 loss at Pittsburgh on Sept. 4.
Mets right-hander Matt Harvey (5-4, 5.82 ERA) and Cubs lefty Jon Lester (10-7, 4.35 ERA) square off Wednesday night. Harvey pitched five innings of two-run ball in a 7-2 victory against Cincinnati in his most recent start Thursday. Lester is looking for his third straight win.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
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