Cubs cap sweep of Braves despite Kotsay’s cycle
ATLANTA (AP)—The Chicago Cubs are proving they are more than just Wrigley Field winners.
The Cubs, who are tied for the most home wins in the majors, stretched their lead in the NL Central with their eighth straight road victory.
Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano hit home runs and the Cubs beat Atlanta 11-7 on Thursday night, giving Chicago a sweep of the season series for the first time since the rivalry between the franchises began in 1876.
The Cubs stretched their lead over Milwaukee in the NL Central to 4 1/2 games.
The Cubs, who swept the Braves in a three-game series in Chicago June 10-12, were dominant in adding three straight wins in Atlanta. The Cubs outscored the Braves 29-9 and have their longest road winning streak since 12 straight wins away from Wrigley Field in 1945.
“I knew all along that for us to spurt, we needed to play better on the road,” said Cubs manager Lou Piniella. “We needed to put more runs on the board, and that’s exactly what we have done.”
The Cubs overcame a brief benches-clearing skirmish and only the second cycle in Atlanta history.
Mark Kotsay went 5-for-5 and joined Albert Hall as the only Atlanta players to single, double, triple and homer in the same game.
Kotsay drove in a run with a second-inning triple, homered off Chicago starter Ted Lilly in the fourth and added singles in the sixth off Lilly and the ninth off Kerry Wood. Kotsay’s seventh-inning double off reliever Bob Howry was his 1,500th career hit.
Kotsay said the sweep ended any thoughts of celebrating the personal highlight.
“It’s a selfish accomplishment,” Kotsay said. “Yeah, it feels good to accomplish something but you can tell by the atmosphere in the clubhouse, it’s pretty numb in here.”
The Cubs spoiled the return of Braves left-hander Tom Glavine (2-4), who gave up seven hits and seven runs in four innings in his first start since June 10. Glavine walked four batters and had three strikeouts in his return from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow.
“I’m not discouraged,” Glavine said. “I’m not happy, obviously. Your expectations are high. What I was worried about in my two rehab stars, it came to fruition. I was worried about how sharp I really was and how much I was able to do what I wanted to do.
“Against a lesser lineup, maybe I get away with some of that stuff.”
Lilly (12-6) lasted six innings, giving up eight hits and four runs.
It wasn’t a save situation, but Wood gave up two hits in the ninth after manager Lou Piniella said earlier Thursday the right-hander is back in the closer’s role.
Carlos Marmol pitched 1 1-3 perfect innings in his return to the set-up role.
Lilly hit Braves shortstop Yunel Escobar with a pitch in the sixth inning to start a brief altercation. Escobar was upset as he pointed and yelled at Lilly. Escobar had to be restrained by plate umpire C.B. Bucknor, but other players showed a little emotion as they walked onto the field from both benches and bullpens.
There were no punches and no ejections. Braves manager Bobby Cox said Escobar’s elbow was swollen.
Lilly was thrown out of a game in Atlanta on June 10, 2007, after he hit Edgar Renteria with a pitch. He said he was glad he avoided another ejection.
“I definitely would have been upset if I had been thrown out of the game,” Lilly said. “I was thrown out of one here last year for no good reason.”
Braves rookie left-hander Francisley Bueno was suspended for three games on Thursday. Bob Watson, baseball’s vice president for discipline, said Bueno intentionally threw a pitch near Soriano’s head in Wednesday’s first game of a doubleheader. Bueno was thrown out of the game.
Bueno’s suspension and undisclosed fine came after he was optioned to Triple-A Richmond.
Ramirez hit a three-run homer in the third before leaving the game in the fifth with a bruised left hip.
Ramirez led off the fifth with a single and was on second base when Kotsay lost Geovany Soto’s fly ball to center field. The ball dropped for a double, and Ramirez slid headfirst across the plate as second baseman Martin Prado’s relay home sailed beyond catcher Clint Sammons’ reach for an error.
Ramirez lay face-down near the plate for a few seconds before walking off the field. He did not take the field in the bottom of the fifth.
Ramirez said he expects to be able to play Friday at Florida.
“It’s all right,” Ramirez said. “I tried to avoid the tag. I tried to slide away from him. … I couldn’t breathe. It knocked the air out of me.”
Soriano added a two-run homer in the fourth.
The Cubs jumped on Glavine for three hits and two runs in the first. Reed Johnson drove in a run with a bases-loaded single. Soto walked to force in another run.
Jeff Francoeur had three hits, including a three-run homer, for Atlanta. It was his first homer since July 9.
Cubs RHP Ryan Dempster’s scheduled start on Saturday at Florida was pushed back to Sunday. Piniella said Dempster has to attend to a personal matter and won’t arrive in Miami before late Saturday. LHP Sean Marshall will start Saturday’s game. … Hall hit for the cycle on Sept. 23, 1987 against Houston.