Atlanta (39-43) at Chicago (41-39)

Cloudy Currently: Chicago, IL
Temp: 59° F
  • Game info: 8:05 pm EDT Tue Jul 7, 2009
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With Aramis Ramirez(notes) returning from the disabled list, Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella said his third baseman didn’t have to try and do too much offensively right away.

Piniella could say that because he has Derrek Lee(notes) in his lineup.

Lee will try to continue his hot hitting Tuesday night as surging Chicago plays the second game of a three-game set against the visiting Atlanta Braves.

The first baseman hit a two-run homer in the first inning and added his first double since June 23 during a 4-2 victory over Atlanta on Monday night.

Lee has batted .333 with five home runs and 14 RBIs to help the Cubs (41-39) win five of six games this month. His homer Monday was his team-leading 16th of the season.

“Basically he’s been carrying us,” Piniella said.

While Lee got off to a slow start this year before heating up, Ramirez was on an early season tear before suffering a separated left shoulder. Ramirez, batting a team-best .364 with four homers and 16 RBIs when he was injured, played for the first time since May 9 and went hitless in four at-bats Monday.

“The big thing with (Ramirez) is like I told him, ‘Don’t try to come in and carry. Just be yourself and do what you’re capable of and we’ll be very happy with it,’” Piniella said before the game.

While Ramirez works to regain his form, the Cubs have Lee to power them offensively. After hitting .244 with five homers and 19 RBIs in his first 36 games, he has batted .333 with 11 home runs and 34 RBIs in the past 33, a span that includes a career-best 21-game hit streak.

Lee is 14 for 42 (.333) with three homers during a 10-game hitting streak against the Braves that dates to last season.

Looking to win for the ninth time in 10 home games Tuesday, Lee and the Cubs will try for a better performance against the Braves’ Javier Vazquez(notes) (5-7, 3.05 ERA).

The right-hander pitched 6 2-3 innings to beat Chicago 2-0 on June 22 at Turner Field. Atlanta, however, continues to struggle to score runs for Vazquez.

The Braves totaled two runs in his next two starts and have averaged 1.84 runs in his last eight outings. Vazquez went 1-4 with a 2.68 ERA during that stretch.

“Vazquez has been great almost every time he’s gone out there this year,” Atlanta manager Bobby Cox told the team’s official Web site. “He should definitely have at least 10 wins.”

The former White Sox pitcher has not won at Wrigley Field since Sept. 10, 2002, and allowed at least four earned runs in each of his last three outings there, the most recent a 7-1 loss June 22, 2008.

Atlanta (39-43) has been outscored 14-8 during a three-game losing streak - all the games coming on the road. Outfielder Nate McLouth(notes) is one of the few Braves that has produced at the plate during the slide, going 7 for 13 with two homers and four RBIs. He hit a solo home run Monday.

The Cubs will turn to Ryan Dempster(notes) (5-5, 4.09), who was outstanding in his last two starts against Atlanta, as they go for their sixth straight home win over the Braves.

Dempster pitched a four-hitter to beat the Braves 7-2 at Wrigley last June 11, and he opposed Vazquez on June 22, giving up two runs in eight innings of the 2-0 defeat.

He earned his first win since May 30 on Thursday night, allowing three earned runs in 6 2-3 innings and matching a season high with nine strikeouts to beat visiting Milwaukee 9-5.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Vazquez Mia vs. C. Zambrano Phi
15-10 Record 9-7
2.87 ERA 3.77
238 K 152
44 BB 78
1.03 WHIP 1.38


Tuesday, Jul 7