"I think still at this point in time, we don't intend to be a Wild Card," Arrieta said. "We still think we can win our division. … We're still in a position here where we can jump some guys if we can get hot and have some good fortune with the teams ahead of us."
Arrieta now leads the Major Leagues with 15 wins, and posted his 12th consecutive quality start. He's 9-1 in the dozen games with a 1.26 ERA. He was pulled after six scoreless innings, and wanted to go deeper but manager Joe Maddon is trying to keep the right-hander fresh for October.
"Our expectation is to play longer, and he's not done that," Maddon said. "I want him to be well for that moment. Regardless of how they feel now, you've got to make those decisions."
Both Cubs homers came off hard-throwing Mike Foltynewicz, although Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez missed seeing them after being ejected in the third for arguing balls and strikes with home-plate umpire Doug Eddings.
"I see Folty out there battling and getting after it," said Gonzalez, whose team has lost 19 of its past 21 road games. "So after a few times of seeing him get frustrated with his body language, I just said a few things."
Thursday was the first day of what Maddon has dubbed "American Legion" week. There was no batting practice and players were told not to report until four hours before first pitch at the earliest. And they'll do it again on Friday.
"Overall, first day of American Legion was OK," Maddon said, smiling.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Big bopper: Rizzo was one of the few Cubs who didn't hit in the just completed two-game series against the Tigers, going 1-for-10, but he but made up for that in the third inning. The Cubs had two on and one out, and after Gonzalez was ejected, Coghlan hit a RBI single and Rizzo followed with his 24th home run. He now has 73 RBIs, and should easily top his career high of 80 RBIs set in 2013.
"Keeping that ball fair is quite a feat," Maddon said. "That kid [Foltynewicz] has a great arm. Fastball in, to stay inside on that ball and have it not hook, that's not easy to do. That's obviously a big play there."
HRs doom Folty again: Foltynewicz surrendered seven earned runs in 4 2/3 innings, but his line overshadowed how impressive his stuff was. His fastball consistently sat between 97-99 mph and he produced some effective sliders. But he still allowed at least two homers for the fourth time in his past six starts. Rizzo hit his three-run shot on a 98-mph inside heater that came back enough over the plate to catch the sweet spot of his bat. Russell's solo shot came against a 1-0 slider -- a pitch the Braves rookie has working to consistently bury down in the zone.
"I've just got to refine the off-speed [pitches] a little better and I think I'm heading in the right direction," Foltynewicz said. "They just came out swinging it pretty well tonight." More >
Freeman's contributions: When Freddie Freeman returned to Atlanta's lineup for Wednesday's game in San Diego, he felt he was reacting late to pitches. But he seemingly made a quick adjustment as he notched a pair of hits against the Cubs, including an eighth-inning single that helped move Nick Markakis into position to score on Adonis Garcia's sacrifice fly.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Arrieta is the first Cubs pitcher to record 12 consecutive quality starts since Hall of Famer Greg Maddux had a 14-game stretch, June 25-Aug. 31, 1992. Arrieta also is the Cubs' first 15-game winner since Ryan Dempster went 15-12 in 2010.
"[The quality start streak] kind of gives me the idea that I'm doing something right," Arrieta said.
"He's a competitor, he's a gamer," Cubs catcher Miguel Montero said of Arrieta. "You can see the fire when he's pitching. … He's one of the best I've caught."
Rookie Kris Bryant left the game after five innings but the Cubs said it was because of the lopsided score and a chance to give him a breather. Bryant was visibly wincing on Wednesday after fouling a ball off his foot, but stayed in the game and totaled a career-high four hits. On Thursday against the Braves, he reached on a fielder's choice in the second, and struck out in the third and fifth innings. He fouled a ball off his leg or foot in the third. Jonathan Herrera took over at third base in the sixth. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Braves:Shelby Miller will take the mound when Atlanta and Chicago resume their four-game series on Friday at 4:05 p.m. ET. Miller has posted a 3.03 ERA during his current 16-start winless streak that has been a product of meager run support. He carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning of Sunday's start against the D-backs.
Cubs:Kyle Hendricks will start the second game of this four-game series, and hopes to have fixed some mechanical issues. The right-hander has had trouble with his balance, and looked at video from his Double-A games in hopes of correcting the problem. He's 4-1 with a 3.25 ERA in his last nine starts. First pitch is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. CT.