Braves 8, Cubs 4

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ATLANTA (AP)—The Atlanta Braves must put together a long winning streak if they want to have any hope of making the playoffs.

They’re facing the right team to get something started.

Brian McCann homered and drove in three runs, leading Atlanta past the hapless Chicago Cubs 8-4 Friday night and providing a glimmer of hope to the Braves’ fading postseason chances.

“We still have a chance,” McCann said. “We have to do something out of ordinary. We’ve got to get on a winning streak, take a lot of games in a row. There’s not a lot of games left, but there’s no give-up in any of us. We want to get to the playoffs. We’re going to keep trying to get there.”

Adam LaRoche and Marcus Giles also homered for the Braves, who began the night seven games back in the NL wild-card race and trailing six teams.

LaRoche is doing his best to spark Atlanta. He’s hitting .364 with 16 homers, 44 RBIs and 39 runs in 46 games since the All-Star break.

“I know we can do it,” said LaRoche, who went 3-for-4 and scored three times. “Everybody in here, especially after we win, says, ‘Absolutely, we can do this.’ We’ve just got to take it one day at a time and not look forward too much.”’

For now, the immediate goal is .500—a mark the Braves (67-73) haven’t been at since June 3. They went 6-21 that month, effectively ruining their hopes of a 15th straight division title.

“I think it’s going to take better than .500 to get it done,” LaRoche said. “But if we can get there, we’ll have a shot. At the least, I want to go into that last series knowing that if we sweep or win two of three, we’ll be right there.”

The Cubs have long since given up on the playoffs, losing 16 of 19 as they stagger to the finish of a dismal season.

“I had hoped that in this big park, we’d keep the ball in the park,” manager Dusty Baker said.

After Chicago jumped ahead with three unearned runs in the second, McCann led off the bottom half with his 18th homer over the center-field wall. Two innings later, he tied it up with a two-run double.

Tim Hudson (12-10) won his fourth straight decision, overcoming a couple of errors in the second that allowed Chicago to jump ahead 3-1.

The first miscue was an errant throw to first by third baseman Willy Aybar. McCann was charged with an error when he dropped a throw home from right fielder Jeff Francoeur, costing the catcher a chance to tag out Geovany Soto before he crossed the plate on Juan Pierre’s single.

Hudson got all his outs on grounders or strikeouts, though he did start to get some pitches up in the strike zone in the sixth. The Braves went to their bullpen to finish it out, getting scoreless innings from Macay McBride, Tyler Yates and Bob Wickman.

The Braves put together four hits in the fourth off Angel Guzman (0-5), whose ninth big league start again failed to produce his first career win.

After McCann’s double brought home two runs, Francoeur singled and Aybar was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Scott Thorman put the Braves ahead 4-3 with a grounder to second, which brought home McCann.

Atlanta stretched its lead on LaRoche’s 29th homer, a solo shot that cleared the 400-foot sign in center.

Jacque Jones homered with two outs in the sixth, pulling the Cubs to 5-4, but the Braves put it away with two more runs. Francoeur had a run-scoring single with two outs in the seventh, and Matt Diaz scored on a wild pitch by Roberto Novoa in the eighth.

Hudson went six innings, allowing six hits and one earned run. He walked two and struck out seven.

“It was nice to be able to get some groundballs,” he said. “I felt like I had a pretty good sinker.”

Guzman lasted only 4 1-3 innings, giving up seven hits and six runs. Amazingly, he struck out seven and walked none while getting knocked around. But he’s still seeking win No. 1.

“When you fall behind in the count, you have to go for the strikeout and you have a lot of pitches in the middle of the plate,” Guzman said. “A lot of mine were in the middle, and they hit them pretty hard.”


Braves SS Edgar Renteria struck out four straight times, tying a career high, before grounding out in the eighth. … Atlanta improved to 4-0 against the Cubs this season, having swept a three-game set at Wrigley Field in late May. The teams have three more games at Turner Field. … Atlanta improved to 31-35 at home, the NL’s second-worst home record behind the Cubs’ mark at Wrigley. … Wickman, the Braves’ closer, worked the ninth even though it wasn’t a save situation.

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