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Maholm, Cubs Sink Braves, 5-1

Posted By Jourdan Shepard On Jul 5 2012 @ 12:21 am In Atlanta Braves | No Comments

In his eighth career start against the Braves, Paul Maholm lead the Chicago Cubs to a 5-1 victory by continuing his streak of not allowing Atlanta’s offense to total more than two runs against him.

Maholm (6-6) pitched well for the Cubs (31-50) by only allowing eight hits and one earned run during his six-inning outing against Atlanta (42-39). This latest start for the Mississippi native is just another testament to how much of a thorn he has been in the Braves’ side during his career. The seven-year veteran is now 3-1 with a 1.36 ERA against the Braves, including a 2-0 record and 0.56 ERA this season. Maholm’s career ERA versus the Braves is less than half of any other team he has faced.

The Cubs’ win would not have been possible without the help of their rising stars, All-Star Bryan LaHair and Anthony Rizzo. For the first time this season, both LaHair (14) and Rizzo (3) each hit home runs in the same game. Starlin Castro, LaHair’s fellow NL All-Star teammate, also helped on offense by scoring on the backend of a double steal with Rizzo, who was thrown out at second.

The boys in navy, scarlet, and white found it difficult to bring runners home especially in the sixth inning when Chipper Jones was ready to score from third base. Losing 2-1, Jones charged home when David Ross, who was starting in place of Brian McCann, hit a single to left field, but was thrown out by a perfect throw from Alfonso Soriano.

“If you look at some of his past years, he leads the league in assists, or he’s up there almost every year,” Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Soriano. “Some of that is because they challenge him; he’s a guy who was converted from second base to the outfield, and they challenge him. He’s a little unorthodox but he gets it there, and he’s pretty accurate. That’s a big play.”

Atlanta has lost five of their last seven games and are in dire need to win on Thursday to salvage their 10-game homestand and their current four-game series with Chicago. This loss also drops them to six games behind the Washington Nationals (47-32) for first place in the NL East.

(Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images/July 4, 2012) Anthony Rizzo celebrates with his teammates after his eighth-inning home run against the Atlanta Braves.

This is a tough loss for the club, but particularly for Braves rookie starter Randall Delgado (4-9), who went pitch for pitch with Malholm for six innings. Delgado allowed seven hits and three earned runs, but struck out five Cubs before being replaced by Jonny Venters. Venters only recorded two outs, but gave up a run on a wild pitch and a home run to Jeff Baker to raise the lead to 4-1. The final nail in the coffin was made by Rizzo, who sent an eighth-inning offering from Anthony Varvaro over the right-field fence.

For the Cubs it was a historic day, because it was the first holiday game Chicago has won since 2008 and only the third July 4th victory in the past 14 tries. The Cubs will try to build off of their recent momentum on Thursday when they send Matt Garza to the mound (4-6, 4.01 ERA).

In the series finale, Atlanta will counter Garza with left-hander Mike Minor (4-6, 4.01 ERA) and they also expect Brian McCann to return to the lineup to complete the Braves’ last four games before the All-Star break. Gonzalez rested his star catcher on Wednesday after McCann posted a .186 batting average with three home runs and 11 RBIs in his previous 30 games. David Ross received the starting nod from Gonzalez with the hope that he could capitalize on his career .308 average and two home runs against Maholm entering Wednesday’s contest. The ten-year veteran struggled in his four plate appearances going 1-for-4 with two strikeouts, including one strikeout looking to the Cubs starter in the second inning.

Following their last game of their lengthy homestand, Atlanta will travel to Philadelphia to face the Phillies before the Summer Classic break.

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