Cubs 3, Braves 2

In a lost season for Randy Wells, he may finally be starting to

find himself.

Wells pitched effectively into the seventh, Alfonso Soriano

homered and the Chicago Cubs beat the Atlanta Braves 3-2 on

Wednesday night.

Wells (5-4) held the Braves to one run and two hits over 6 2-3

innings, striking out six and improving to 4-1 in his career

against Atlanta.

”Randy was good, obviously,” Cubs manager Mike Quade said.

”Just a real good performance on the back of a game he threw

pretty well.”

The Cubs snapped the Braves’ six-game winning streak and Atlanta

remained 6 1/2 games behind the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL

East.

Soriano’s two-run shot fueled Chicago’s three-run rally in the

second. He also walked and was hit by a pitch. Aramis Ramirez added

a single and two walks, extending his hitting streak to 13

games.

”It felt good,” Soriano said about his long home run. ”That’s

all we needed runs because (Wells) threw a very good game

tonight.”

Carlos Marmol got the last three outs and joined Lee Smith as

the only Cubs relievers to post consecutive 30-save seasons.

Wells has struggled this season, going 3-4 with a 6.16 ERA since

coming off a seven-week stay on the disabled list on May 28. On

Wednesday, he flashed the form that gave him the NL’s 10th-best ERA

as a rookie in 2009.

”I’m starting to feel a lot better,” Wells said. ”I’m

starting to command the fastball a lot better. Tonight, I had a

pretty good changeup.”

He got off to a fast start, setting down the first 10 Braves and

striking out four. The only hit he allowed through the first six

innings was Martin Prado’s infield single in the fourth.

”Not only (was it big) to come out and shut them down early,

but do it pretty economically pitch count-wise,” Quade said.

”Those early innings got him to the seventh.”

Wells appeared to tire in the seventh, giving up Freddie

Freeman’s flyout to the wall and Chipper Jones’ home run into the

batter’s eye in center field. Wells threw 109 pitches and departed

after Jones’ blast.

Wells hasn’t used his early-season forearm strain as an excuse

for his struggles, but admitted it didn’t help his cause.

”I still don’t make an excuse about it, but it was definitely a

hard thing to come back from,” Wells said. ”The biggest thing is

the physical health, but besides that it’s having the confidence to

cut a ball loose.”

Jones and Alex Gonzalez hit a solo homers for Atlanta, which

managed just three hits in the game. Jones moved into a tie with

Jeff Bagwell for 34th on the career list with 449.

”All the credit goes to Wells,” Jones said. ”He had an

outstanding changeup tonight. He made one mistake with it.”

Derek Lowe (8-12) took the loss, allowing four hits and two

earned runs over seven innings, matching his longest outing of the

season. Lowe threw a season-high 119 pitches.

”I thought the whole game was Derek Lowe,” Braves manager

Fredi Gonzalez said. ”He was outstanding. … For him to go seven

innings and keep us in the ballgame, that was big. That was really,

really big.”

Soriano gave the Cubs their first lead of the series in the

second with his 22nd homer, a mammoth two-run shot to center field

well over the 400-foot sign.

The Cubs added a run later in the inning thanks to the speed of

Tony Campana, who reached on an error when Dan Uggla tried to hurry

on a slow roller to second. Campana stole second, went to third on

a balk and scored on Wells’ swinging bunt.

Ramirez didn’t figure in the scoring, but remained hot. He

walked twice and reached on an infield single, extending his streak

of reaching base to a career-high nine plate appearances before

grounding out in the seventh.

Ramirez is hitting .560 (28 for 50) during his 13-game hitting

streak and has reached base in 30 of his last 45 plate

appearances.

Gonzalez homered off reliever Kerry Wood in the eighth. In the

ninth, Marmol hit Uggla with a pitch to start the inning but

recovered to earn the save and snap Atlanta’s winning streak.

NOTES: Braves OF Jose Constanza was out of the lineup for the

second straight day because of a mild sprain of his right ankle,

though manager Fredi Gonzalez said Constanza was available to

pinch-hit. He expect his to return to the lineup on Thursday. …

Cubs manager Mike Quade was encouraged by news from RHP Andrew

Cashner’s brief rehab start for Double-A Tennessee on Tuesday.

Casher allowed two runs and three hits in 2-3 of an inning, but

Quade said his velocity topped out in the high 90s and he reported

no problems with the strained right rotator cuff that’s had him out

since April 5. Cashner is scheduled to make two more appearances

for Tennessee before moving up to Triple-A Iowa ahead of a

September return with the Cubs. … The Braves will send rookie

Brandon Beachy (6-2) to the mound for Thursday afternoon’s series

finale against Chicago’s Matt Garza (6-9), who has posted a 1.47

ERA over his last nine home starts.