Ankiel's triple lifts Braves

Newcomer is man of the hour in ninth inning

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CHICAGO --- Derrek Lee struggled in his first game with the Atlanta Braves and still had a good time.

Atlanta's Alex Gonzalez (right) and Diory Hernandez scored on Rick Ankiel's bases-loaded triple in the ninth inning. The Braves have 22 wins in their final at-bat.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Atlanta's Alex Gonzalez (right) and Diory Hernandez scored on Rick Ankiel's bases-loaded triple in the ninth inning. The Braves have 22 wins in their final at-bat.

This was exactly what the big first baseman expected when he joined the NL East leaders.

Rick Ankiel hit a bases-loaded triple off a wild Carlos Marmol with two out in the ninth inning, lifting Lee and the Braves to a 5-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Friday.

"You can see the difference with a winning team," said Lee, who was dealt to Atlanta on Wednesday after nearly seven seasons with the Cubs. "When you're playing well, you have the confidence."

Atlanta leads the majors with 22 wins in its final at-bat and Ankiel, who arrived in July in a trade with Kansas City, was happy to finally do the honors. He entered the game with only three RBI since joining the team.

"It's almost like we get extra adrenaline -- whatever you want to call it -- when it comes to late in the game," Ankiel said. "It's a special feeling. It always feels like we're never out of it, no matter what."

Lee received a standing ovation before his first at-bat and went 0 for 4.

The Cubs lost their eighth consecutive home game -- their longest skid in four years -- and fifth consecutive overall.

"A tough stretch," said Cubs starter Ryan Dempster, who pitched eight strong innings but was denied his fourth win in a row. "Sometimes you find ways to lose instead of finding ways to win."

Dempster allowed two runs and four hits, retiring the last nine batters he faced. He is 3-0 with a 1.65 ERA in four starts this month.

Marmol (2-3) walked Martin Prado, Brian McCann and Alex Gonzalez before Ankiel's hit. It was his fifth blown save in 26 chances.

"You just can't walk people with a lead," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "We walk three of them, and that's what cost us the ballgame."

Billy Wagner retired three consecutive hitters after Darwin Barney's leadoff single in the Chicago ninth, earning his 30th save and No. 415 for his career. He struck out two to move into a tie with Jesse Orosco for the most strikeouts by a left-handed reliever with 1,169.

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