Rookie, Braves stifle Cubs

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CHICAGO --- Kenshin Kawakami wasn't completely satisfied with one of his best major league outings.

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Chicago's Kosuke Fukudome reacts after being called out at second on the first half of a double play as Atlanta's Brooks Conrad prepares to throw to first to get Ryan Theriot in the first inning Wednesday. Replays showed Fukudome had beaten the throw. The Braves won 4-1.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Chicago's Kosuke Fukudome reacts after being called out at second on the first half of a double play as Atlanta's Brooks Conrad prepares to throw to first to get Ryan Theriot in the first inning Wednesday. Replays showed Fukudome had beaten the throw. The Braves won 4-1.

His old teammate had something to do with that.

The 34-year-old rookie allowed only four hits over six innings Wednesday in helping the Atlanta Braves to a 4-1 victory over Chicago.

It was only the second time this season Kawakami (5-6) gave up one run or fewer while pitching at least six innings. The run came on a sixth-inning homer by Kosuke Fukudome, whom he played with for nine years with the Chunichi Dragons of Japan's Central League.

"He might have taken half of my happiness today," a laughing Kawakami said.

The other half of Kawakami's happiness was preserved by shortstop Yunel Escobar, whose spectacular diving grab of a line drive off Fukudome's bat kept Atlanta ahead 2-1 in the eighth.

"His range is as good as it gets and his arm is awesome," Braves catcher Brian McCann said of Escobar, who made several outstanding plays in the series. "That play he made today saved the game maybe."

The Cubs gave away two runs in the ninth -- one on Fukudome's first error of the year and another on Kevin Gregg's wild pitch.

It was all part of another frustrating day for the Cubs, whose offensive woes left manager Lou Piniella searching for words.

"Frustrating? Look ... what else can I say?" he said. "There's nothing else to say, there really isn't. You've just got to swing the bats better if we're going to do anything the rest of the year, and that's really the bottom line.

"I said it before the ballgame. I get asked the same questions every day -- every day, you know? I think what you need to do is go ask the players why they're not hitting instead of asking me," Piniella added. "They can probably give you much better insight."

Not really. The players also were wondering why a team that led the NL in runs last season is ranked 15th this year.

"The fact of the matter is we just didn't hit," said Ryan Theriot, who had two of Chicago's six hits. "That's baseball. I just think that's the way it is. You're not going to score a ton of runs every game."

Piniella would settle for something similar to the first 35 games, when the Cubs averaged 5.06 runs while going 21-14. Since then, they're averaging 3.43 runs while going 20-27. They have been held to one run or fewer 15 times during the 47-game slide.

After going 0-6 against the Cubs in 2008, Atlanta won this season's series 4-2. Peter Moylan, Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano each worked a scoreless inning of relief. Soriano earned his 10th save.


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