Braves 8, Cubs 4
ATLANTA (AP)—Greg Maddux is beginning to find his Cy Young form.
Maddux (9-8) went over the .500 mark for the first time this season.
“It’s about time,” he said. “There’s still a long way to go and I’ve just got to keep it going. Getting a lot of runs, especially early, makes it a lot easier.”
It’s precisely the major offensive upgrade Chicago needed for the stretch run. The Cubs are third in the NL Central, just 4 1/2 games behind first-place Houston.
“It was the time to make a move. I think it’s awesome,” Sammy Sosa said.
The speedy Lofton replaces injured center fielder Corey Patterson, out for the season with a torn knee ligament, while Ramirez provides power and fills a huge hole at third base.
“Aramis, when he’s right, he’s a big bat. Hopefully, a change of scenery— he’s only 25—will do him good,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. “Lofton is a burst of energy.”
Maddux, who won four straight NL Cy Young Awards from 1992-95, allowed two runs, five hits and no walks in seven innings. He stifled the streaking Cubs, who scored 31 runs on 41 hits in their two previous games, a 16-2 rout of Florida and a 15-6 win over Atlanta on Monday night.
“He was almost flawless, sharp as a tack,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said.
Maddux lowered his ERA to 4.36 and said he wasn’t concerned about his slow start.
“I don’t worry about it. Everybody else worries about it so I don’t have to. I felt good tonight. Tomorrow I’ll put in an Expos tape and get ready for my next start,” he said.
The Braves won for the 14th time in 16 games and stretched their NL East lead over Philadelphia to a season-high 10 1/2 games. The Phillies lost 7-5 to the New York Mets.
Andruw Jones, who went 2-for-4, had his sixth consecutive two-hit game and drove in two runs. Chipper Jones was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and Marcus Giles was 3-for-4 with three runs scored for the Braves.
Atlanta never trailed, scoring a run in the first off Sergio Mitre (0-1), making his major league debut, on an RBI double by Chipper Jones that scored Giles.
Castilla hit his two-run homer—his 16th—into the left-center stands in the second for a 3-0 lead.
The Cubs scored twice in the third on three hits off Maddux. Mark Grudzielanek had a run-scoring bloop double off the glove of second baseman Giles and Sosa had an RBI groundout.
The Braves broke it open with four runs in the third. They knocked out Mitre in the fourth, scoring once for an 8-2 lead.
“Obviously, it was a tough night. I would have liked to do a lot better,” Mitre said. “I got the ball up a little bit. I made a few mistakes and they don’t miss.”
The Braves had five straight singles in the third, including run-scoring hits by Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones and Robert Fick, and a sacrifice fly by Maddux.
Mitre was knocked out after a two-out RBI double by Andruw Jones in the fourth. The right-hander gave up eight runs, 10 hits and three walks.
Atlanta’s 66-33 record, tops in the majors, is also the best mark after 99 games in franchise history.
Sosa, coming off consecutive 3-for-4 games with a homer in each, went 0-for-4 and struck out twice.
Paul Bako hit a two-run double for Chicago in the ninth.
Mitre got his first major league hit on the first pitch he saw from Maddux, hitting a line drive single to center in the third inning. … Cubs CF Tom Goodwin left in the third inning after straining his left hamstring while running to second on a double to right-center. He is day-to-day. … Castilla’s home run was Atlanta’s 149th of the season, tops in the majors. … The two RBIs by Chipper Jones left him in a second-place tie with Hank Aaron for themost in Atlanta history with 897. Dale Murphy is No. 1 with 1,143.