Cubs outslug Braves for series sweep

SportsChicago CubsAtlanta BravesNational LeagueTed LillyWrigley FieldAramis Ramirez

Ted Lilly had Alfonso Soriano's back Thursday night at Turner Field, just as he did last year in Atlanta when he was ejected for allegedly throwing at Edgar Renteria after Braves pitchers had treated Soriano like their personal piñata.

With a five-run lead in the sixth inning of an 11-7 victory over Atlanta, Lilly hit Braves shortstop Yunel Escobar in the left elbow, leading to some finger-pointing by Escobar and a bench-clearing scene tamer than a Saturday morning cartoon.

Lilly denied he was trying to hit anyone, saying the pitch just got away.

"I'm trying to throw inside," he said. "That's what I do. You know, I'm going to hit him and he's going to be upset. I understand he's unhappy about it. No one wants to get hit."

Manager Lou Piniella had almost no reaction to Escobar's reaction, saying it was much ado about nothing.

"I think [Lilly was] just trying to come in on him," Piniella said. "Where did it hit him? I don't even know."

Soriano agreed Lilly was not trying to hit Escobar in retaliation for Francisley Bueno's pitch that sailed behind Soriano's head Wednesday night, which led to a three-game suspension for the Braves' rookie pitcher.

"We don't play the game like that," Soriano said. "We're trying to go to the playoffs, so we have to play clean."

After all the commotion ended, the Cubs came away with a sweep of the six-game season series against the Braves and a 41/2-game lead over second-place Milwaukee in the National League Central. They have won eight straight road games for the first time since a 12-game streak in 1945 and are on pace to win 99 games.

Soriano and Aramis Ramirez homered, leading the Cubs to their fourth straight victory and their 14th in the last 17 games. Ramirez, who became the first Cub since Hack Wilson (1926-30) to hit 20 homers and 30 doubles in five straight seasons, left the game with a left hip contusion after a headfirst slide at the plate on Geovany Soto's RBI double in the fifth that Mark Kotsay lost in the lights.

Ramirez said he thought he would be OK to play Friday night in Miami against the Marlins. While he was getting treatment in the Cubs clubhouse, Kotsay became the fifth player in Braves history to hit for the cycle.

The Cubs pounded out 14 hits off left-hander Tom Glavine and five relievers, finishing the series with 29 runs. Glavine, who was making his first start since going on the disabled list with an elbow strain incurred June 10 against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, gave up seven runs over four innings.

Lilly (12-6) didn't have his best stuff but lasted six innings, allowing four runs on eight hits with two walks and eight strikeouts. His moment came in the sixth when he hit Escobar on the first pitch with two outs and a man on first.

While Escobar ranted and pointed, plate umpire C.B. Bucknor intervened, sending Escobar toward first as the benches and bullpens cleared. Order was restored quickly, a warning was handed out and no one was ejected.

"We won five series in a row, so we're playing good baseball," Piniella said. "Now we have to go to South Florida and continue."

psullivan@tribune.com

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