Hanson, Braves beaten by Samardzija

ATLANTA (AP) — Tommy Hanson said he was pitching
well enough to win, even when matched against Jeff Samardzija’s dominant
splitter.

Then came the seventh
inning.

Hanson gave up a tiebreaking three-run double
to Luis Valbuena and the Atlanta Braves, baffled by Samardzija’s
devastating splitter, fell to the Chicago Cubs 4-1 on Monday
night.

Hanson (9-5) gave up four runs and seven hits
in seven innings for his first loss since May 28. He went 4-0 with a
3.13 ERA in June.

“It’s frustrating,” Hanson said.
“It’s not like I went out there and got beat up. I felt like I had good
stuff and it just came down to that one
inning.”

Hanson made it through seven innings for
only the sixth time in 17 starts, but appeared to fade in his final
inning.

Bryan LaHair and Steve Clevenger started the
seventh with singles, and Darwin Barney walked to load the bases.
Valbuena, the No. 8 hitter who began the day with a .226 batting
average, then doubled to right field for a 4-1
lead.

“I wanted to throw a back-door slider right
there and it kind of leaked over the middle,” Hanson
said.

Anthony Rizzo hit Hanson’s first pitch of the
fourth inning over the wall in left-center for his second
homer.

“He guessed right and ambushed me,” said
Hanson of Rizzo. “It was a fastball down and away and he hit it out of
the park.”

Samardzija had a career-high 11
strikeouts.

Samardzija (6-7) yielded one run and four
hits in seven innings, rebounding from a rough June. The right-hander
was 0-4 with a 12.27 ERA in his previous four starts, allowing a
season-high nine runs during a 17-1 loss to the Mets on
Wednesday.

“It’s about time, you know?” Samardzija
said.

“I just thought I took my time from pitch to
pitch. I thought I made the right pitch selection based on the previous
pitch.”

Samardzija began the night with a 5.05
ERA.

Against the Braves, however, Samardzija has been
sharp. He gave up five hits and one run in seven innings, while
striking out seven, in a 5-1 win over the Braves in Chicago on May
7.

“Both times I’ve faced him, he’s had unbelievable
stuff,” Hanson said. “He throws hard and has that good split and starts
throwing those sliders in there. Anytime you’re mixing three pitches,
it’s tough.”

Cubs manager Dale Sveum said a key for
Samardzija was he allowed “a three-pitch pitcher to be a three-pitch
pitcher” by using his slider, splitter and
fastball.

The splitter was the most devastating
pitch.

“There were a couple times he threw it four or
five times in a row,” said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. “And we had
no chance on it. Especially left-handed
hitters.”

Chicago has won four straight and six of
seven. Rizzo, one of the Cubs’ top prospects, has two homers in six
games since he was recalled on Tuesday.

“The way
we’re playing right now is exciting,” Samardzija said. “It’s solid all
around.”

Samardzija said it may not be a coincidence
that the Cubs’ surge has come since Rizzo joined the
team.

“It definitely hasn’t hurt,” Samardzija said.
“Rizzo’s presence in our lineup has been big, a big left-handed
hitter.”

Rizzo, who had two hits, is hitting
.304.

Jeff Russell pitched the ninth for his second
save.

Atlanta tied it in the sixth. With two outs,
Michael Bourn doubled to left field and scored on Martin Prado’s
single.

The Braves’ only hit through five innings
came with two outs in the second, when Dan Uggla, hustling all the way,
beat out an infield hit on a grounder to shortstop Starlin
Castro.

Andrelton Simmons led off the Atlanta third
with a walk, took second on his first career stolen base and advanced to
third on a wild pitch by Samardzija. Hanson then struck out and Bourn
lined into a double play.

Barney made a diving stop
on Simmons’ ground ball behind second base and threw him out in the
eighth. The second baseman then went the other way to snag a sharply hit
grounder by pinch-hitter Eric Hinske for the second
out.

NOTES: Cubs 3B Ian Stewart,
who has been on the disabled list since June 12, will have surgery on
his left wrist. Sveum said the date for the procedure has not been set.
Stewart is batting .201 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 179 at-bats. …
Cubs RHP Ryan Dempster, who has been on the 15-day DL since June 18
with tightness in his right lat muscle, threw 40 pitches in the bullpen.
Barring a setback, he plans to throw again in the bullpen on Wednesday.
Sveum said he doesn’t think Dempster will need a minor league rehab
stint. … Braves C Brian McCann, who was only 3 for 21 on the homestand
before Monday night, was moved down to seventh in the batting order,
the first time he has hit below sixth this season. McCann was 0-for-3
and is hitting only .224. … The four-game series continues on Tuesday
night with RHP Jair Jurrjens facing Cubs RHP Chris Volstad. …
Samardzija’s previous high of nine strikeouts came on April 24 against
St. Louis.