CHICAGO — Kris Bryant picked the right time to rediscover his long-ball swing.
With Chicago’s first-place lead in the National League Central dwindling, the Cubs couldn’t afford to wait much longer.
Bryant snapped out of a slump with a three-run homer and four RBIs, and Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ added solo shots to power the Cubs past the New York Mets 8-3 on Tuesday night.
Bryant and Schwarber both went deep for the 26th time, and Happ hit his 22nd home run.
“We had some opportunities even early in this game, and KB’s homer really turned the tide,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Bryant’s shot, which put Chicago ahead 4-1 in the fourth. “We were looking for that one big hit. It happened to be a home run.”
The long balls backed a solid seven-inning effort by Jose Quintana (10-11 overall, 6-3 with the Cubs) and helped first-place Chicago maintain a two-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the division. The Milwaukee Brewers, who also won, are 2 1/2 games back.
Bryant hadn’t homered or posted an RBI in his last 10 games and entered hitting .176 (6-for-34) in that span. The reigning NL MVP last went deep and drove in a run on Aug. 31 vs. the Atlanta Braves.
During that span, the Cubs’ offense was sputtering. Heading into Tuesday, Chicago had scored only 16 runs in eight games — and eight of those came in one game at Pittsburgh last week.
“I didn’t even know there was any negativity around,” Bryant said. “I just don’t pay attention. Nobody is talking about it here.
“Everybody had good at-bats tonight. Just good signs all around.”
Quintana allowed two runs and six hits while striking out seven and walking one. The left-hander helped his cause by driving in Chicago’s first run with a squeeze bunt.
“All my stuff was really good,” Quintana said. “This win was really important for us.”
Ben Zobrist also had an RBI for the Cubs, whose division lead was five games last Thursday before Milwaukee swept a three-game series at Wrigley Field.
Mets starter Robert Gsellman (6-7) lasted four innings, allowing four runs, five hits and five walks. Wildness elevated the right-hander’s pitch count to 93.
“It’s all about command, and tonight his command is certainly not what we know he can do,” manager Terry Collins said
“Today I had too many walks, too many stressful innings,” Gsellman said. “All those walks are going to lead to runs.”
New York’s Asdrubal Cabrera had three hits, including a double. Travis Taijeron, Travis d’Arnaud and Nori Aoki each had an RBI.
The Mets pushed across a run on Taijeron’s groundout in the fourth to take a 1-0 lead.
The Cubs looked as if they would settle for a small-ball reply in the bottom of the inning, but Bryant’s three-run shot put them ahead 4-1 after Chicago first tied it 1-all on the squeeze by Quintana.
With one out and runners and first and third, Quintana bunted perfectly down the first base line on the first pitch. Schwarber raced home, sliding under Dominic Smith’s throw while Quintana reached first.
One out later, Bryant belted a Gsellman pitch for a high drive to right-center, capping the rally.
New York got a run back in the fifth on d’Arnaud’s sac fly, but Schwarber lofted his homer to right center with two outs off Tommy Milone to make it 5-2.
Zobrist singled in a run in the sixth, and Happ homered to left in the seventh to make it 7-2.
Bryant’s sac fly to the center field warning track in the eighth drove in Javier Baez to extend it to 8-2. Aoki drove in the final run with groundout in the ninth.
NOTES: Cubs C Willson Contreras made his first start since being activated from the disabled list on Sunday and went 0-for-1 with three walks hitting in the cleanup spot. Manager Joe Maddon wants to ease Contreras back into action this week and pulled him after seven innings. Contreras went on the DL on Aug. 11 due to a right hamstring strain. … Chicago RHP Jake Arrieta, strained his right hamstring on Sept. 4, played catch in the outfield before Tuesday’s game. Maddon said Arrieta still isn’t ready for a bullpen session, and a return date for the right-hander hasn’t been set. Arrieta could pitch next week versus Tampa Bay. … The Mets recalled C Tomas Nido from Double-A Binghamton. The 23-year-old hit .232 with eight homers and 60 RBIs in 102 games with Binghamton. … New York also acquired minor league RHP Eric Hanhold from Milwaukee as the player to be named in a deal that sent INF Neil Walker to the Brewers on Aug. 12.