CHICAGO — with the two-time defending National League Central Division champions on the verge of falling out of first place http://www.bravesfanproshop.com/authentic-bob-uecker-jersey , the Cubs showed their sticks still have some life.A 7-6, extra-inning victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday capped by Albert Almora, Jr.’s two-out single in the 10th inning allowed the Cubs to preserve their half-game margin for the divisional lead. The Cubs will attempt to move closer to their third straight Central crown when they wrap up their four-game series against the Pirates on Thursday.The Cubs also clinched a playoff berth Wednesday.Article continues below ...The seven-run explosion arrived after the Cubs had struggled to score runs against the Pirates. After dropping the first two games of the series when the Cubs managed only two runs, Chicago gave its pitching staff some run support and pulled out the win after the bullpen blew a 6-1 lead.“There’s no pressure, no panic,” Almora said in a postgame televised interview.Now, they’ll look to continue the trend Thursday.“If we could just get on the board early, that would be very helpful Tyler Flowers Jersey ,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon told reporters Wednesday.“If we get a chance to get on (Pirates) starters early, we need to do that because they seem to get better games in progress.”With a win Thursday, the Cubs will earn a series split and create a bit more distance between themselves and the idle second-place Milwaukee Brewers, who clinched their first playoff berth since 2011 on Wednesday. Milwaukee finished off a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals with a 2-1 victory Wednesday.The Cubs hope to get third baseman Kris Bryant back in the lineup after Bryant missed Wednesday’s game with a sore wrist. Bryant left Tuesday night’s game after being hit by a pitch and sustaining a wrist contusion. Maddon told reporters that the swelling wasn’t as bad as expected, but that it was enough to keep Bryant from playing.Jon Lester (17-6, 3.43 ERA) takes the mound hoping to give the Cubs some momentum heading into another tough test this weekend against the Cardinals. Lester has won three of his four September starts and has allowed five earned runs in the four outings. Lester is 8-6 with 3.38 ERA in 17 career starts against the Pirates, including 3-1, 3.72 in five outings this season.Trevor Williams (14-9 http://www.bravesfanproshop.com/authentic-orlando-cepeda-jersey , 3.04) will take the mound for the Pirates. Williams has also been impressive throughout September and has won three of his four starts with a no-decision. Williams has not allowed an earned run in three of his four starts and has struck out seven in each of his past two outings. Williams is 2-3 with a 3.41 ERA in seven career outings (five starts) against the Cubs, including 1-1, 1.38 in two turns this season.Williams has been among the Pirates’ most effective performers in the second half but has done so while not gaining much notoriety for his efforts. While he isn’t flashy or doesn’t overpower hitters with his approach, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Williams is one to simply get the job done.“It’s pitchability, it’s pitch execution,” Hurdle told reporters earlier this month, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “He’s hitting spots. He’s throwing his fastball where he wants. He’s changing speeds. And it’s really hard to hit. He’s getting it done the old-fashioned way. He’s flat-out pitching.” As the calendar gets closer to August, the trade deadline looms over MLB and will continue to do so through July 31.Contending teams like the New York Yankees Phil Niekro Jersey , Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox have already made significant moves, but no general manager can ever feel confident that enough has been done. That won't be determined until the last out of the World Series is completed.There are non-contending teams that are clearly in a sell mode as the season hits the far turn on MLB's version of the racetrack. The Toronto Blue Jays may have started the season with hopes of becoming a wild-card team, but they have been a streaky team with more downturns than upswings this season.As a result, they are willing to move several pitchers. Toronto would like to trade starter J.A. Happ and relievers Tyler Clippard and John Axford, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.Happ made the American League All-Star team, but he has been somewhat inconsistent. He has a 10-6 record with a 4.18 earned-run average and 130 strikeouts in 114.0 innings.The 33-year-old Clippard is a well-traveled veteran, and he has a 4-3 record with a 3.54 ERA and seven saves in 13 opportunities. Axford has pitched 48.0 innings with a 4-1 record and a 4.69 ERA.The Chicago Cubs are looking to add to their pitching staff, and Chicago baseball insider Bruce Levine of radio station WSCR reported that they are looking at Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays http://www.bravesfanproshop.com/authentic-tom-glavine-jersey , Danny Duffy of the Kansas City Royals and Dylan Bundy of the Baltimore Orioles.The Cubs also had interest in reliever Zach Britton of the Orioles before he was traded Tuesday to the New York Yankees.Levine reported that Chicago has turned its attention to American League hurlers because that league has more non-contending teams, and that means a greater volume of players may be available.The Cubs don't necessarily want to make a deal involving key players on their 25-man roster, and that may be the reason they were unable to complete deals for Britton or former New York Mets reliever Jeurys Familia, who was traded to the Oakland A's.The Boston Red Sox made a big deal Wednesday when they acquired pitcher Nathan Eovaldi from the Tampa Bay Rays for Jalen Beeks, per Ken Rosenthal of Fox and The Athletic.The Red Sox have suffered some injuries to their starting staff, as Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez are both on the disabled list. The right-handed Eovaldi also gives the Red Sox more balance in their starting staff since Chris Sale, David Price and Rodriguez are left-handed.Eovaldi has a 3-4 record with a 4.26 ERA with 48 strikeouts and just eight walks in 57.0 innings."We feel very comfortable with him," manager Alex Cora said Chipper Jones Jersey , per Zachary Silver of MLB.com. "We feel he's going to be good for us."The Red Sox may also be looking at Texas Rangers pitcher Jake Diekman, as well as pitchers Zach Duke and Fernando Rodney of the Minnesota Twins, per Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.There are five more days to go before the deadline, and quite a bit of talking and perhaps several deals will be completed before the end of July.