Cubs complete sweep of Bucs

Chicago Cubs second baseman Tommy La Stella gets upended at second by Pittsburgh Pirates' Josh Harrison during a baseball game Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016, in Chicago. (AP)

CHICAGO (AP) – Kris Bryant hit his 36th homer and made three solid plays at third base, helping Jason Hammel and the Chicago Cubs top the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-5 on Wednesday night for a three-game series sweep.

Addison Russell had two RBIs and an outstanding sliding catch as Chicago equaled the best August in franchise history with a 22-6 record, also accomplished in 1932. It was the Cubs’ first time with 22 wins in a month since it went 22-10 in September 1945.

Heading into the final stretch of the season, the Cubs (85-47) are rapidly closing in on their first division title since 2008. They begin September with the majors’ best record at a season-high 38 games over .500 and a whopping 15-game lead over second-place St. Louis in the NL Central.

Pittsburgh (67-64) closed out a 4-3 trip that began with a sweep in Milwaukee. It trails the Cardinals by 2 1/2 games for the second NL wild card.

Hammel pitched six innings of one-run ball in his first start since he was pulled in the third inning of a 3-2 loss at the Dodgers on Saturday, prompting the frustrated right-hander to meet with Joe Maddon to discuss what he felt was a quick hook by the manager.

No problems at all this time around. Hammel (14-7) allowed three hits and struck out six after dropping his previous two starts.

Jordy Mercer had two hits and two RBIs for Pittsburgh, which dropped to 3-12 against Chicago this year. Josh Harrison had two hits and drove in a run.

Andrew McCutchen’s bases-loaded walk trimmed Chicago’s lead to 5-2 with two outs in the seventh. Gregory Polanco then hit a flare down the third-base line that looked like trouble for the Cubs, but Russell sprinted over from shortstop and made a terrific grab near the home bullpen.

Pitching for the third straight day, Aroldis Chapman worked a rocky ninth inning for his 32nd save in 35 chances. He threw three wild pitches and yielded Francisco Cervelli’s two-out RBI single before fanning Mercer with two on for the final out.

Bryant went 2 for 4 and reached base three times while extending his hitting streak to 13 games. The second-year slugger is tied with Colorado’s Nolan Arenado for the NL lead in homers and tops the majors with 111 runs scored.

A brisk wind blowing in from left field was no match for Bryant, who drove an 0-1 pitch from Ryan Vogelsong into the bleachers in left in the first. It was Bryant’s 10th homer in August.

Bryant made a diving grab to rob Sean Rodriguez of an RBI single in the second. He went behind the bag to take a hit away from Harrison in the third and reached into the stands to retire Josh Bell on a foul popup in the fourth.

Vogelsong (3-4) was charged with three runs and six hits in five-plus innings.