CHICAGO -- Braden Looper got the early run support he needed Wednesday night and made it through five innings to earn his career-high 13th victory.
By the time Looper's back started stiffening up in the third inning, the Brewers already had scored five runs on their way to a 9-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
"Luckily we scored a lot. That's for sure," Looper said. "I felt really good for three innings. About as good as I have all year. But then I just couldn't get the ball down after that."
His back started bothering him because he'd been hit there by a line drive during batting practice Tuesday.
"I got crushed in BP. I was playing catch. You don't see it coming," he said.
Looper (13-6), who won 12 games in each of the two previous seasons with the Cardinals, allowed five runs and nine hits, including a two-run homer by Aramis Ramirez in the fifth, and walked three.
"Thirteen wins is nothing to laugh at," Looper said. "To get that 13th is nice. Couple of more would be good."
Speaking of 13, that's how many hits each team had Wednesday. The Brewers drove Chicago starter Rich Harden (9-9) after three innings, and Milwaukee shortstop Alcides Escobar had career highs with four hits and three RBIs.
"I'm getting better and better every day," Escobar said. "I'm trying to work on my offense every day, trying to put the ball in play and make some contact. I'm looking for line drives in every at-bat."
Milwaukee scored two in the second on a two-out RBI double by No. 8 hitter Escobar and a run-producing single from Looper.
The Brewers loaded the bases in the third on Corey Hart's single, an error on Cubs' third baseman Ramirez when he let Ryan Braun's hard hopper get past him and an intentional walk to Prince Fielder. Casey McGehee hit a sacrifice fly for a 3-0 lead and Mike Cameron walked to reload the bases before Escobar came through again with a soft two-out, two-run single for a 5-0 lead.
Harden gave up five hits, five runs -- two earned -- and three walks, while throwing 71 pitches during his short stint.
"Bad outing," said Harden, who hasn't made it past the fifth inning in any of his last four starts because of high pitch counts.
"I have thrown a lot of pitches the last three starts and not many innings," he added.
Chicago got a pair back in the bottom of the third on a sacrifice fly by Kosuke Fukudome and RBI single by Derrek Lee. But Escobar made a nice play on Milton Bradley's grounder behind the bag and threw him out to end the rally.
Milwaukee got another run in the fourth with the aid of a rare error on Cubs' catcher Geovany Soto and the alert eye of Milwaukee manager Ken Macha.
After Felipe Lopez singled and moved up to second on an infield out, reliever David Patton threw a ball in the dirt that Soto attempted to scoop up with his catcher's mask, which is illegal. Macha came out of the dugout and pointed it out to home plate umpire Doug Eddings. Lopez was allowed to advance to third, Soto was charged with an error, and Braun followed with an RBI single.
"I don't think Soto knew the rule. I'll be honest with you," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "We told him he couldn't use his helmet, either, just to make sure."
Corey Hart added a two-run single in a three-run fifth that included Escobar's third straight hit.
Escobar has a five-game hitting streak, going 9 for 19 during that stretch. ... Cubs OF Alfonso Soriano, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Tuesday and is finished for the season, was back in the clubhouse Wednesday. "Everything is good," Soriano said. "Hopefully in a week it will feel better."