MILWAUKEE -- It only took Milwaukee Brewers manager Ned Yost a few moments to remember a closer as dominant as Francisco Cordero has been this season.
"Rollie was pretty good in '81," Yost said of his former Brewers teammate, Rollie Fingers, who became the first reliever in major-league history to win the AL Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award in the same season.
Cordero recorded the final four outs for his major-league leading 22nd save in 22 chances and Ryan Braun, Corey Hart and Tony Graffanino each hit solo home runs to help the Brewers beat the Cubs 7-5 on Tuesday night.
Chicago lost for the first time in three games since manager Lou Piniella was suspended by the league for four games after arguing with umpire Mark Wegner on Saturday.
The Brewers led 5-0 after three innings until Chicago rallied late in the game.
"We didn't fold," said Cubs bench coach Alan Trammell, who is handling managerial duties while Piniella is suspended. "That's a good sign."
Cordero lowered his ERA to 0.37, and batters are hitting only .088 (7-for-79) against him. He's only given up one earned run in 24 2/3 innings.
"It feels great," Cordero said. "It's an unbelievable feeling. I don't think anybody can describe what it feels like. There's no word for it and it's not something you get over."
The Brewers closer entered the game with two outs and two on base in the eighth, his team leading 7-5 and Alfonso Soriano batting as the go-ahead run for the Cubs. Cordero struck out the Chicago leadoff hitter on four pitches, ending the Cubs threat.
"He's been as good as it gets," Yost said of Cordero.
Claudio Vargas (4-1) pitched 5 1/3 innings, giving up three runs and seven hits to win for the first time since May 4, a span of six starts.
Chicago starter Ted Lilly (4-4) gave up all three home runs. He pitched five innings, allowing six runs and eight hits.
"I gave up three home runs on three different pitches and none of them were really executed or located well," Lilly said.
The Brewers are 9-2 in games started by Vargas despite his lack of victories the past month. As he has done all season, the right-hander pitched out of trouble, holding the Cubs to 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
Vargas has held batters to a .161 average (10-for-62) with runners in scoring position this year.
"I try to focus a little bit more and make my pitches," Vargas said.
The home runs gave Milwaukee 77 this year, vaulting the Brewers past Cincinnati into the NL lead.
"We found a way to put some balls in the stands," Yost said.
The Brewers never trailed, taking the lead in the first on Prince Fielder's sacrifice fly, scoring J.J. Hardy from third.
In the second, Graffanino hit his second home run and Hart hit his third to give Milwaukee a 3-0 lead.
Fielder doubled and scored on Kevin Mench's double in the fourth. Damian Miller followed with a single, scoring Mench for a 5-0 Brewers lead.
Cliff Floyd's single scored Felix Pie in the fourth to make it 5-1. The Cubs loaded the bases with two outs in the inning, but Vargas got Cesar Izturis to hit an easy fly out to Hart in right field to end the inning.
Braun hit his third home run in the fifth to make it 6-1.
Floyd hit his third home run to bring the Cubs within 6-2 in the sixth. Michael Barrett followed with a single and Ryan Theriot hit a double to the center field wall, scoring Barrett to make it 6-3.
Braun's RBI single scored Hart to give Milwaukee a 7-3 lead in the seventh.
Chicago pinch-hitter Mark DeRosa's single off Derrick Turnbow scored two runs in the eighth to make it 7-5, prompting Yost to summon Cordero to face Soriano.