CHICAGO - For all the Braves' bravado about improving their play at home, perhaps it is better this way.
Start the playoffs on the road? There's no better team in the league away from home than the Braves.
"I'd rather be home every game of the season, but if we were we'd be in last place," third baseman Chipper Jones said Saturday afternoon after yet another road win, this one by a 5-3 score over the Chicago Cubs. "It's cyclical. Next year we could have the best home record in baseball and the worst road record."
The win was the second straight for the Braves over the Cubs, whose wild-card aspirations are fading faster than the Midwestern summer. The crowd of 38,705 at Wrigley Field was as disappointed in Sammy Sosa's failure to go deep as in first baseman Fred McGriff's departure in the second inning with a mild hamstring strain.
There's still 21 games left, but the Braves are taking charge of a pennant race that's defined description to this point. On a trip they expected to build momentum for a home-and-home series with the second-place Phillies, the Braves have compiled a 4-1 record and dared the Phillies to keep pace.
"I can't explain it," right fielder Brian Jordan said. "We're more relaxed. There's no autograph signings, no appearances on the field, just relax and play. We're more rushed at home."
Tom Glavine, following up Monday's shutout of the Expos, navigated through four scoreless innings against the Cubs before Michael Tucker's home run with two outs in the fifth made it 4-1.
Eric Young doubled to open the sixth, spelling the end for Glavine, who departed when a blister opened on his left hand, and Young came around to score on a single by Ricky Gutierrez off reliever Rudy Seanez. Sosa, held to a walk in Friday's game, followed with a run-scoring double to make it 4-3.
"I don't know why it came back today," said Glavine, who was bothered by a blister on his index finger several weeks ago. "I don't know what the deal was, but hopefully it won't be a problem beyond today."
Glavine, who had not beaten the Cubs at Wrigley since 1996, improved to 14-7 with career win No. 222, passing Joe Niekro for 65th place on the all-time list.
The Braves, who are 43-26 on the road, gave Glavine and four relievers all the offense they would need in the third.
Cubs starter Kevin Tapani (9-12) had set down seven Braves in order until Paul Bako's one-out single. Bako, who triggered a rally with a fifth-inning walk in Friday's win, scored when Marcus Giles ripped a two-out double, the first of his three hits, into the right field corner.
The Braves had their next four batters reach safely, when they scored three more runs. Julio Franco sent a double to the right-center field ivy, Jones belted his 35th home run into the left-center field seats, Jordan singled, and B.J. Surhoff rolled a single through the right side.
But only two other base runners would reach in the next four innings against Tapani and reliever Julian Tavarez. Giles singled and was caught stealing in the fifth, then Surhoff singled and was erased on a double play in the sixth.
Giles doubled off Cubs reliever Jeff Fassero to open the eighth and scored an insurance run when Franco, atoning for three strikeouts Friday, bounced a single to right.
"You always want to play in a pennant race," said Giles, who had just two hits in 16 trips on the road trip. "I love it. Why do people think it's nerve-wracking? It's fun."
Braves relievers Mike Remlinger and Steve Karsay went six-up, six-down, then John Smoltz finished off the Cubs in the ninth, though he gave Bobby Cox some anxious moments when pinch hitter Delino DeShields lined a two-out double against the right field wall. Smoltz induced Tucker to roll out to second baseman Giles to earn his seventh save.
"We play so well on the road and we can't get it going at home," Giles said. "That's the weird thing about this game."
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