Cubs-Braves Preview

The Associated Press

Hours after being named to an eighth All-Star team in the final year of his all-but-certain Hall of Fame career, Chipper Jones put together a performance reminiscent of his prime.

Building on it Wednesday night, however, could be difficult, as the Chicago Cubs give the ball to Paul Maholm, who has regularly frustrated Jones and the Atlanta Braves.

Jones was left off the original All-Star roster Sunday, but was one of five players on the ballot for the final NL spot to be decided by fan voting. He didn't need that one, though, as the 40-year-old third baseman was added to the team Tuesday to replace the injured Matt Kemp.

The newly minted All-Star quickly made that look like a wise decision, going 5 for 5 and driving in four runs in a 10-3 win over the Cubs. It was Jones' third career five-hit performance and first since Aug. 11, 2002, and it raised his batting average 22 points to .313.

"Tonight was just one of those dream games," said Jones, who doubled twice and even stole his first base of 2012. "I would be hard-pressed to find a game in which I played better."

The Braves (42-38) snapped Chicago's season-best four-game winning streak with their second victory in six contests, remaining five games back of NL East-leading Washington. Atlanta improved to 17-2 when Jones drives in a run.

Jones is riding a season-best 10-game hitting streak, during which he's batting .432 with seven doubles, but he's hitless in nine career at-bats against Maholm (5-6, 4.84 ERA).

Michael Bourn, who is one of the four remaining players on the ballot for the final NL All-Star spot, has also struggled against Maholm, batting .219 with 10 strikeouts in 32 career at-bats.

Maholm is usually at the top of his game against the Braves, posting a 1.34 ERA in seven starts - his lowest against any opponent. At Wrigley Field on May 9, he allowed three hits and three walks in seven innings of a 1-0 win over Atlanta.

The left-hander went 0-4 with a 6.43 ERA over his next eight starts - with Chicago (30-50) losing seven times - before limiting Houston to four hits and a walk over a season-high 8 1-3 innings in Friday's 4-0 victory. Maholm credits a greater confidence in his pitches for the turnaround.

"If you are doubting your pitches or whatever you are not going to be as crisp," Maholm said. "Whether I was throwing the so-called correct pitch, I was aggressive with it."

Atlanta hopes scheduled starter Randall Delgado (4-8, 4.52) can solve his recent problems Wednesday. The Braves have lost Delgado's last four starts and 10 of his last 13.

In his last two, the 22-year-old right-hander has pitched a combined 5 1-3 innings, surrendering eight runs and 14 hits.

Despite his struggles, Delgado had a solid outing at Wrigley on May 8, allowing a run and three hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 3-1 victory, although he didn't get the decision. Cubs All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro was 0 for 3 against Delgado.

Castro is 4 for 28 in his last eight games but has walked five times in that stretch after drawing six bases on balls in his first 72 contests.

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