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CHC@ATL: Uggla smacks a solo shot to dead center

ATLANTA -- Derek Lowe has admitted he has been inspired by the dramatic turnaround Dan Uggla has experienced over the past six weeks. But while Uggla has continued to surprise with his recent surge, Lowe has continued to disappoint with his inconsistencies.

Lowe minimized damage during the early innings and then saw the Cubs prove fortunate enough during the middle innings to overcome Uggla's latest homer and claim an 8-4 win over the Braves on Saturday night at Turner Field.

"They just hit some pitches and had some nice timely hitting when they needed it," Uggla said. "That's just the way it went. It wasn't our night."

Uggla extended his hitting streak to 33 games with a first-inning single and drilled his 27th homer of the season with a fourth-inning leadoff shot off Cubs starter Randy Wells. This helped jump-start the Braves, who recorded 12 hits and forced the Cubs to call upon closer Carlos Marmol after they loaded the bases with one out in the ninth.

Chipper Jones' sacrifice fly cut the Braves' deficit to four. But ultimately they were unable to overcome the damage incurred by Lowe, who paid for his inability to consistently get ahead of hitters.

"He pitched good for the counts he was in and the situations he was in," Braves catcher David Ross said. "But you've got to get ahead of hitters a little better. But for the most part, I thought he threw pretty good. His stuff was good. He didn't finish some guys."

With six weeks remaining in the regular season, the Braves are hoping Lowe surprises them in the manner that he did last year, when he ended a long string of struggles by going 5-0 with a 1.17 ERA in five September starts. But while going 4-7 with a 6.30 ERA in his past 12 starts, the 39-year-old right-hander has not produced a lot of reason for confidence.

Five days after saying he had gained confidence during a victorious outing against the Marlins, Lowe allowed the Cubs five earned runs and 10 hits in six innings. His primary nemeses were Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney, who both enjoyed four-hit games while filling the top two spots in the Cubs' lineup.

After retiring the first two batters he faced in the fifth, Lowe got ahead of Barney with an 0-2 count and then allowed him to record a single. Two batters later, he ignored his goal to not throw a sinker on the outer portion of the plate to Carlos Pena.

Taking advantage of his ability to reach the sinker, the left-handed Pena drove Lowe's delivery to the left-center-field gap for a two-run double that gave the Cubs the lead for good.

"I knew it wasn't something I wanted to do going into the game," Lowe said. "I just kind of went with it. But those weren't the only runs scored in the game. It's just another loss."

Lowe's sixth-inning woes began when Tyler Colvin raced to third with a one-out triple after Michael Bourn dropped his long drive while crashing into the center-field wall. Colvin then scored when Jones barehanded Geovany Soto's slow roller and made an errant off-balance throw to the plate. Soto reached second on the play and scored on Castro's two-out single.

While luck might have aided Lowe in the middle innings, he was fortunate that he allowed just one run while allowing the Cubs to put a runner in scoring position with less than two outs in each of the first three innings.

"Looking back at it, I really wouldn't have changed many pitches," Lowe said. "I think there are definitely some games where I have felt there are a lot of pitches where I haven't made the right choice or execution."

Along with notching his sixth multi-hit game of the season, Uggla also scored on an Alex Gonzalez single that gave the Braves runners at first and second with nobody out in the sixth inning. This prompted the Cubs to replace Wells with Jeff Samardzija, who promptly retired the first three batters he faced.

While improving his batting average from .173 to a season-high .232, Uggla has experienced a rebound similar to the ones Lowe experienced last year and at the end of the 2008 season, when he produced a 4.11 ERA in his first 25 starts and a 0.94 ERA in his final nine starts.

Last year, Lowe was 11-11 with a 4.32 ERA through his first 26 starts.

With Lowe posting a 4.89 ERA through his first 26 starts this year, the Braves certainly can't count on him making another surprising turnaround down the stretch. But history at least gives them hope he could do so.

"That's what I think stinks about right now, I've pitched way worse," Lowe said. "Granted there have been a lot of stinkers in there. But I felt way worse last year than I do, but you're getting the same results. That's the head scratching thing." Comments