Braves use long ball to make short work of Cubs

ATLANTA (AP) -- If the Braves could just keep playing Chicago,
they'd have a much better chance of making it back to the playoffs.

Adam LaRoche, Brian McCann and Andruw Jones homered for Atlanta
to back the solid pitching of Chuck James, leading the Braves past
the Cubs 7-3 Saturday night.

"We're making a good run for it," said James, who allowed two
earned runs in seven innings. "We've got a lot of momentum right

Atlanta closed to within five games of wild card-leading San
Diego, which lost to San Francisco 5-4 in 11 innings. Unfortunately
for the Braves, they have only two more games against Chicago this

On the year, Atlanta is 5-0 against the Cubs. Going back even
farther, the Braves have won 11 of 12 against Chicago, which hasn't
won at Turner Field since April 11, 2004, dropping six in a row.

Of course, the Cubs aren't winning against anybody these days,
losing 17 of 20.

James (9-3), who went to spring training as a longshot to make
Atlanta's pitching staff, has given a huge boost to an injury
plagued rotation. The rookie left-hander has won five straight
decisions, allowing no more than two earned runs in seven straight

He gave up six hits, walked only one and struck out six against
the Cubs.

"I'm definitely confident," James said. "I kind of just go
out there and, here it is. That's just the easy way. I try to make
it as simple as possible."

His teammates feel just as confident when James takes the mound.
"He goes out there and throws strikes and that takes the
pressure off the defense," Jones said. "That's what we've had my
whole career, guys who throw strikes and let the defense work."

For the second night in a row, the Braves fell behind by a
couple of runs early in the game but used the long ball to erase
their deficit.

Down 2-0, Atlanta struck back in the third with a pair of
two-run homers off Wade Miller (0-1), making his first appearance
of the season. Willy Aybar walked with one out and the
torrid-hitting LaRoche followed with a 421-foot shot to
right-center for his 30th homer.

The first baseman went deep for the second night in a row and is
hitting .365 with 17 homers and 46 RBI in 49 games since the
All-Star break.

"I can say it now: 30 was my goal," LaRoche said. "I'm going
to ride it out as long as I can."

After LaRoche's homer, Miller followed with a walk to Andruw
Jones. Again, the Braves made him pay for putting a man on base as
McCann followed with drive into the Atlanta bullpen to make it 4-2.

Jones got in on the power display in the fifth, lining his 33rd
homer over the left-field wall to put the Braves up 5-3. The Braves
have hit 14 homers in their last three games against the Cubs.

"That's a lot of homers," manager Dusty Baker said. "There
have been a lot of balls up over the plate. They have a lot of guys
who can hit homers. And when they hit homers, they hit them in

Not surprisingly, Miller looked rusty in his three-inning stint,
giving up five hits and walking five. The right-hander was on the
disabled list nearly all season recovering from shoulder surgery
over the winter.

"It was good to get back out there," Miller said. "I wasn't
sure what to expect."

Matt Murton, a former star at nearby Georgia Tech, homered off
James in the second. Ryan Theriot made it 2-0 in the third with a
single driving in Juan Pierre, who got into scoring position with
his 50th stolen base.

Pierre's speed led to an unearned run in the fifth. He stole
another base, went to third on McCann's wild throw to second and
came home on a sacrifice fly by Aramis Ramirez.

The Braves pulled away on run-scoring hits by Jeff Francoeur in
the seventh and Marcus Giles in the eighth.

"We're giving up five, six, seven runs every game," Baker
said. "We're getting hit hard."

Game Notes
Atlanta missed a chance to go ahead in the first when Willy
Aybar was called out for missing third base. Aybar was at first
when LaRoche tripled to right, but the runner failed to touch the
final bag on his way home. ... For the second night in a row,
Braves closer Bob Wickman pitched the ninth in a non-save
situation. ... Pierre is the first Cubs player to steal 50 bases in
a season since Eric Young had 54 in 2000. ... Murton attended high
school in suburban Henry County before going to Georgia Tech. "I
was a Braves fan," he said. "But now I'm a Cubs fan." ... Braves
SS Edgar Renteria didn't play after coming down with an illness
that's been going through the clubhouse the last three weeks. Tony
Pena filled in.