By RICK GANO
AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO -- Geovany Soto hit a tying three-run homer with two out in the ninth inning, Derrek Lee singled in the winning run in the 12th and the Chicago Cubs beat the Milwaukee Brewers 7-6 on Thursday to move closer to the NL Central title.
The Cubs' magic number for winning their second straight division championship was reduced to two as they sent the Brewers to a crushing defeat.
The Brewers, who began the day just a half-game back of the NL wild card-leading New York Mets, took a 6-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth before Chicago staged an improbable four-run rally with two outs against Salomon Torres, capped by Soto's three-run drive.
Pinch-hitter Daryle Ward led off the 12th with a walk and was replaced at first by Jason Marquis, who moved up on Reed Johnson's sacrifice. Alfonso Soriano was intentionally walked before Ryan Theriot flied out, sending Marquis to third.
Lee then singled to center off Carlos Villanueva (4-7), leading to a raucous scene at Wrigley Field.
Kerry Wood (5-4) pitched two innings, escaping a second-and-third, no-out predicament in the top of the 12th for the win.
J.J. Hardy singled leading off the 12th and Corey Hart doubled for the Brewers. With the infield drawn in, Craig Counsell grounded out with the runners holding. When Jason Kendall hit a bouncer to third, Aramis Ramirez threw home and Hardy was caught in a rundown and tagged for the second out. Pinch-hitter Joe Dillon then grounded out.
With the Cubs down 6-2 in the bottom of the ninth and down to their last out, Ramirez hit a sinking liner to left that got through Ryan Braun for a double, and Jim Edmonds followed with an RBI single. Mark DeRosa singled and Soto hit the next pitch deep into the left-center field bleachers as the crowd erupted.
Edmonds was later ejected in the middle of an 11th-inning at-bat by plate umpire Ed Rapuano when he said something after a 1-1 pitch near the outside corner was called strike two.
Milwaukee led the wild card by 5 1/2 games at the beginning of September but has lost 13 of 17.
The Brewers appeared to have Thursday's game under control with four unearned runs in the sixth off reliever Jeff Samardzija.
Samardzija gave up a one-out walk to Counsell before second baseman DeRosa misplayed Kendall's grounder for an error. Mike Cameron, Ray Durham and Braun delivered consecutive two-out RBI singles to give the Brewers a 4-2 lead.
Prince Fielder drew his second intentional walk as the Brewers loaded the bases for the third time in the game. Randy Wells relieved and walked Hardy on four pitches to force in a run and make it 5-2.
Hart added an RBI double in the ninth but the Brewers missed a chance to score more.
Hardy was thrown out at the plate on a relay from shortstop Theriot trying to score from first on Hart's hit, and Hart was later tagged out trying to reach third on a ball that got away from catcher Soto.
Milwaukee starter Dave Bush went five innings, giving up just two hits -- solo homers to Ramirez and Edmonds.
Chicago starter Rich Harden was pitching for the first time in a week and just the second time in 20 days. He had control problems and lasted just five innings while throwing 115 pitches. He gave up only one hit but walked six -- one intentionally -- and struck out seven.
Harden threw 38 pitches in the first inning and the Brewers got a run without a hit, thanks to his early wildness. He got out of it by striking out Hart and Counsell with the bases loaded.
Soto's homer was the fourth given up by Torres in 76 innings.