The Cubs’ 6-3 victory over the crosstown rival White Sox on Saturday, coupled with the Brewers’ 12-2 loss to the Pirates, put the former Chicago team a half-game up on Milwaukee. Lurking just behind are the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds, in what is shaping up as an epic division battle.Javier Baez had a pair of doubles and two RBIs and Kyle Schwarber knocked in two runs to key the attack, while Jon Lester allowed only one earned run in 6 1/3 innings to pick up his eighth [email protected] now with a 5-1 lead over their cross-town rival! pic.twitter.com/9qWyxKx9hg— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) July 7, 2019The Cubs spent most of May and June in first, but hit a rough spot beginning in early June that saw them lose 15 of 23 games before they beat the Pirates on July 4. Now they’ve won two straight, which isn’t much to brag about, except they’d only strung together two wins twice since early June.Chicago was a popular choice to win the NL Central, and the division is ripe for the taking, but the Cubs can’t afford any more tailspins like they recently endured. Coming out of the All-Star break, 15 of their first 21 games are against division opponents. And the Cubs embark on a nine-game road trip in late July.So a winning streak — however modest — heading into the break could help set the tone for Chicago heading into the second half.Studs of the nightNationals ace Max Scherzer struck out 11 in seven scoreless innings in a victory over the Royals.Pirates shortstop Kevin Newman homered and had four hits and three RBIs in a 12-2 win over the Brewers.Astros right hander Gerrit Cole pitched seven scoreless frames, striking out nine, to pick up the win against the Angels.Dud of the NightReds second baseman Derek Dietrich struck out in all four at-bats against the Indians.HighlightsAngels starter Andrew Heaney honors the late Tyler Skaggs with a sweeping curveball on his first pitch against the Astros.Andrew Heaney throws a curveball on his first pitch in honor of Tyler Skaggs. pic.twitter.com/W4PXosi3Wr— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) July 6, 2019Travis d’Arnaud walks it off against the Yankees with this solo shot with two outs in the ninth. The Cubs are back in first place in the National League Central.That status means very little these days in the ridiculously crowded division, given that all five teams are separated by only 4 1/2 games entering the final day of the first half of the season. But still, first place is better than the alternative. Travis d’Arnaud is a New York legend, after all. #RaysUp pic.twitter.com/U9VVwohiXQ— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) July 6, 2019Pinch-hit grand slams are a rare breed, but Austin Slater is up to the task for the Giants.Pinch-hit slam. [💪](MLB x @PapaJohns) pic.twitter.com/Io4SFmj1If— MLB (@MLB) July 7, 2019What’s NextRangers (47-42) at Twins (56-32), 2:10 p.m. ET — The Rangers have been one of the biggest surprises of the first half, while the Twins are on a record pace for home runs. Rangers right-hander José Leclerc (1-2, 4.62 ERA) will make his third career start. The Twins will go with Kyle Gibson (8-4, 4.14 ERA).