Maddux falls in return to Atlanta

Chicago CubsAtlanta BravesBaseballSportsHealthGreg MadduxRafael Furcal

The Cubs began the second half of their season Tuesday night with a few simple reminders of all the things that went wrong in the first 81 games.

Derrek Lee was forced to leave the game with left shoulder irritation, leaving the Cubs without their one-man wrecking crew, while a game-turning, two-out Atlanta rally victimized Greg Maddux, spoiling his homecoming game at Turner Field.

And the Cubs offense was in limbo once again in a rain-delayed, 5-1 loss to the Braves.

The Cubs fell into a second-place tie in the National League Central with Houston with their sixth straight loss, dropped six games behind Atlanta in the wild-card playoff race and are only one defeat away from their second seven-game losing streak.

The loss aside, the most immediate concern was the health of Lee, who had playing with inflammation in his left shoulder for a couple weeks. Lee will have a precautionary MRI of the shoulder on Wednesday, but expects to miss only a game.

Lee said the soreness comes and goes, but he aggravated it again during a first inning strikeout, and was removed after playing the field in the second.

"Just a funny swing tonight flared it up," Lee said. "I wasn't feeling good, with the inflammation there, and when you swing and it's flared up, it's just soreness."

The shoulder ailment was the reason why Lee said Sunday he declined to participate in the Home Run Derby during next week's All-Star Game festivities. He still plans to play in the Midsummer Classic, and said it's not a serious injury.

"It won't be long," he said. "We'll see how it feels (Wednesday). Hopefully it's fine. If not, I'll take a day (off)."

Maddux had maintained his return to Atlanta was nothing special and Baker agreed that it wouldn't be an emotional night for the veteran right-hander.

"He doesn't show much emotion, No. 1, unless he's not doing something right," Baker said. "And, secondly, there are only a handful of guys who are there from when he was there. It's a little different when it could have been the next year or right after [he left]. Most of these guys weren't even in the organization, or they were at the lower level and he might not have known them."

Maddux's return nearly started out in disaster when Rafael Furcal lined a pitch back at his face leading off the first. Maddux turned his head just in time to escape any facial damage, and shortstop Neifi Perez picked up the deflection and threw Furcal out.

"I whiffed," Maddux said. "Shoulda caught it."

Maddux's luck quickly changed.

Center fielder Corey Patterson, making his first start after a two-day break, broke the wrong way on a one-out double by Kelly Johnson, setting up Marcus Giles' RBI single. Todd Hollandsworth's solo home run in the second tied it, and Maddux retired 10 in a row from the second to the fifth, before the Braves broke through with four two-out runs on a rally ignited by an infield hit by Wilson Betemit.

Maddux walked Furcal with Betemit on second, before serving up an RBI single to Johnson, putting the Braves ahead, 2-1. Giles followed with a two-run double to the left field wall, and Andruw Jones' run-scoring single finished off the inning.

What frustrated Maddux most about the inning?

"Just that it didn't end," he said.

With the unknown Colon dominating, a recurring theme for pitchers the Cubs had never seen before, the outcome was seemingly never in doubt.

The rain began to fall heavily in the seventh when the Cubs loaded the bases with one out, before Colon struck out pinch-hitter Jose Macias and Perez flied out to left on the first pitch, ending the threat just before a two-hour delay.

"That's the difference," manager Dusty Baker said. "We're getting hits. But we're not getting them with runners on base- and they did. They got another crooked number, a four-run inning with two outs. During this streak, that's been the story."

psullivan@tribune.com

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