Winning each series has been the Atlanta Braves’ blueprint for success lately.
The NL East-leading Braves need a victory in Sunday’s finale at Wrigley Field to win a sixth straight series for the first time in more than four years in what will also be Lou Piniella’s final game as manager of the Chicago Cubs.
Piniella said Sunday that he’s retiring following this contest to spend more time with his family. Just over a month ago, the 66-year-old Piniella said he would retire at the end of the season. Piniella recently missed four games to be with his ailing mother in Florida, and three games to attend an uncle’s funeral.
Third-base coach Mike Quade was named interim manager with his first game Monday at Washington.
After opening this set with a thrilling 5-3 comeback win Friday, scoring the go-ahead run on Rick Ankiel’s(notes) two-out, bases-loaded triple in the ninth, Atlanta (72-51) couldn’t duplicate the dramatics Saturday, losing 5-4.
The Braves rallied from a 5-0 deficit and pulled within one with three runs in the eighth, but Brian McCann(notes) struck out to end the game with former Cub Derrek Lee(notes) on first base as Chicago (51-73) snapped a five-game skid.
Lee is 0 for 7 with two walks in his first two games with Atlanta and McCann is hitless in his last 10 at-bats. The All-Star catcher is 1 for 9 lifetime against Sunday’s scheduled Cubs starter Randy Wells(notes) (5-11, 4.44 ERA).
“We still almost pulled it off,” Atlanta manager Bobby Cox. “We know we’re not going to do it every night but we had the runner on to do it.”
The Braves now will try to avoid losing their first series since dropping two of three in Cincinnati from July 30-Aug. 1. They’ve won all five series since, going 13-6 in that span. Atlanta has won five series in a row on two other occasions this year, but hasn’t won six consecutive series since June 30-July 24, 2006.
After allowing four runs over six innings in his major league debut at Houston on Aug. 9, Minor gave up two runs in six innings of Tuesday’s 10-2 victory over Washington. The 22-year-old left-hander was pleased with his aggressiveness after being a bit hesitant in his first outing.
“After that one last week, I was like, ‘It’s the same guys and the same game, just go out there throw your pitches and execute,’” Minor told the Braves’ official website.
Wells, meanwhile, continues to pitch through bad luck. He allowed one run and three hits while striking out seven in seven innings Tuesday, but lost 1-0 to San Diego. It was the 13th time in 16 starts Wells received two runs or fewer of support.
The right-hander has a 2.36 ERA in his last seven starts at Wrigley, but the lack of run support has left him with just two victories.
Wells made his season debut in Atlanta on April 8, giving up six hits in six innings of a 2-0 win. He improved to 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in three career starts against the Braves.
The Cubs, losers of 19 of 24, are hoping Soto can return to the form he displayed shortly before landing on the DL. He hit .313 with seven home runs and 21 RBIs in his last 20 games.
Aramis Ramirez(notes) finished with three hits Saturday. The third baseman has been a rare bright spot in Chicago’s offense recently, batting .303 with eight homers and 29 RBIs in 32 games since the All-Star break.