Braves get by Cubs on Uggla's clutch hit

Braves get by Cubs on Uggla's clutch hit

Braves get by Cubs on Uggla's clutch hit
CHICAGO -- Instead of using their high-powered offense to produce another high-scoring victory, the Braves added to the success of this current road trip by taking advantage of some eighth-inning generosity and benefiting from a strong pitching performance.

Dan Uggla took advantage of Kerry Wood's control problems with a two-run single in the eighth that proved decisive for the Braves in Tuesday night's 3-1 win over the Cubs.

"We're going to have these [low-scoring] games," Uggla said. "Don't get me wrong, we'd love to score five, six, eight, 10 runs a game. But the reality is that's not going to happen every night."

Instead of relying on an offense that had totaled seven runs or more in four of the previous six games, the Braves showed they can also occasionally win with pitching and defense.

Backed by Randall Delgado's strong start and veteran shortstop Jack Wilson's nifty double play turned in the eighth, the Braves improved to 3-10 while scoring three runs or fewer.

After Michael Bourn extended his hitting streak to 12 games with an eighth-inning leadoff single, Wood walked two of the next three batters he faced to load the bases for Uggla.

Having benefited from defensive shifts through the early innings, the Cubs had shortstop Starlin Castro shifted toward third base with Uggla at the plate. The strategy backfired when the veteran second baseman sent his go-ahead single to the left of second base and into center field.

"I made pretty good pitches tonight," Wood said. "The walk to [Brian] McCann with a base open, I'm not going to give in to him. I made a good pitch I thought to Uggla and turned around and we had the shift on, and when things are going bad, you don't get breaks, and I didn't get any tonight. I'll be ready to go tomorrow."

Delgado set the tone for the evening as he allowed just one hit through the first five innings. Attempting to preserve the young hurler's effort, Jonny Venters encountered some trouble when he allowed singles to two of the first three hitters he faced in the eighth.

But Venters was able to breathe a sigh of relief when Uggla fielded Bryan LaHair's grounder and flipped to Wilson, who displayed incredibly quick footwork before unleashing a strong throw to complete an inning-ending double play.

Without the double play, Venters would have been facing Alfonso Soriano with runners at the corners and the Braves clinging to two-run lead.

"As soon as he hit it, I was just thinking one," Uggla said. "I was just going to try to get the lead runner. [Wilson is] so quick that he got rid of it, and we got him by a step and a half. That was a huge play in the game."

Delgado's only costly mistake came when he found too much of the plate while facing Soriano with two outs and a runner on second base in the sixth inning.

With left-handed reliever Eric O'Flaherty warming in the bullpen and Ian Stewart, a left-handed hitter on deck, Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell went to the mound to tell Delgado to be careful with Soriano.

But Soriano proved victorious in this battle when he concluded an eight-pitch at-bat by hitting a game-tying, opposite-field single to right field.

"The last pitch was going to be a sinker on his hands, either for a ball or a broken bat," McCann said. "It leaked over the middle. He pitched an unbelievable game. That pitch right there was supposed to be in, and it was really the only time all night that he missed his spot."

Soriano's determined plate appearance ended and tarnished an impressive outing by Delgado, who was charged with one run and three hits in 5 2/3 innings. The only hit he surrendered through the first five innings came courtesy of David DeJesus' two-out, third-inning double.

"He's learning the league," McCann said. "He's kind of learning on the fly up here. He's got all of the pitches to be successful. He's got poise. He holds runners. He does everything you want. Tonight, he had everything going and he pitched a good game."

So, too, did Ryan Dempster, who provided a glimpse of how he had posted a 0.95 ERA in his first four starts of the season. The only run he surrendered in seven strong innings came when Jason Heyward tripled and scored on Tyler Pastornicky's sacrifice fly in the fifth inning.

After combining for 44 runs in their previous five games, the Braves have totaled just four runs in the first two games of this series. But it is apparent they still have the ability to occasionally win with pitching and defense.

"This was a big win," Uggla said. "It gave us a chance to win the series [on Wednesday], and that's what we set out to do."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.