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Jul 6, 2009 - 12:29 AM By MATT BECKER STATS Senior Writer

Atlanta (39-41) at Chicago (39-39), 7:05 p.m. EDT

For a Chicago Cubs team that some expected to run away with the NL Central, the first three months of this season were disappointing.

The Cubs hope the return of Aramis Ramirez, who is set to be activated from the disabled list before the opener of Monday night's three-game series against the Atlanta Braves, can help ignite the offense and propel the club to a playoff berth.

After finishing with an NL-best 97 wins last season, Chicago (40-39) is 2 1/2 games behind Central-leading St. Louis as it nears the midway point of 2009. Although the Cubs are still contenders in a mediocre division, they are far off last season's pace.

Chicago was 49-30 after 79 games a year ago and Ramirez's injury has contributed to the team's offensive woes.

The two-time All-Star third baseman dislocated his left shoulder while diving to backhand a groundball against Milwaukee on May 8. Without Ramirez, who was batting .364 with four home runs and 16 RBIs at the time of his injury, the Cubs have gone 24-26, scoring two runs or fewer in 19 of those contests.

"Hopefully, he gets right back in the lineup and swings the bat like he's capable of," said Ted Lilly, Chicago's lone All-Star this season.

Lilly earned his eighth victory in Sunday's 8-2 win over the Brewers, helping the Cubs take three of four from their division rivals.

Derrek Lee continued to carry the offense in Ramirez's absence. Lee had a two-run homer and an RBI single Sunday, and is hitting .323 with 14 home runs and 41 RBIs since May 1.

"When you look at his overall totals now, 15 (home runs) and 51 (RBIs) is pretty impressive," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.

Without Ramirez, the Cubs lost two of three in Atlanta in June, after winning all six meetings last season.

Ramirez was instrumental to those victories in 2008, going 10 for 19 (.526) with a homer, seven walks, seven RBIs and 12 runs in the six games. He has a 13-game hitting streak versus Atlanta (39-42), batting .467 (21 for 45) with three home runs, 12 RBIs and a .554 on-base percentage in that span.

Although he's had success against the Braves, facing Jair Jurrjens (6-6, 2.73 ERA) could prove difficult.

Jurrjens gave up his only hit with two outs in the seventh inning in Wednesday's 11-1 win over Philadelphia. He walked four and surrendered an unearned run in seven innings.

The right-hander finally received some run support in his first win since May 29. Jurrjens went 0-4 in his previous five starts, receiving five total runs of support in that span.

Jurrjens, owner of the league's fifth-best ERA, was not selected to the NL All-Star team. Batterymate Brian McCann was the only Atlanta player selected.

The Braves catcher has been mired in bit of a slump, though. McCann was hitless in four at-bats in Sunday's 5-3 loss to Washington, and is 5 for 31 (.161) in his last eight games. Breaking out of the funk against the Cubs won't be easy. He is 1 for 13 against them this year and hitless in three at-bats versus Monday's scheduled starter Randy Wells (3-3, 2.43).

McCann wasn't the only Brave to struggle against Wells, who took a no-hitter into the seventh on June 2 before Chipper Jones singled with two outs. The right-hander gave up two runs and two hits in seven innings, but Chicago ended up losing 6-5 in 12.

Wells allowed one run in seven innings of a 4-1 victory over Pittsburgh on Wednesday to win his third straight start. He has yielded two runs or fewer in eight of his 10 outings.






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  • NL
    FINAL
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    - - - - - - - - - - - -
    ATLANTA 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 9 0
    CHICAGO CUBS 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 x 4 9 1 (FINAL)

    BATTERIES: ATL - JAIR JURRJENS, PETER MOYLAN (7TH), MANNY ACOSTA (8TH) AND
    BRIAN MCCANN
    CHN - RANDY WELLS, SEAN MARSHALL (7TH), CARLOS MARMOL
    (8TH), KEVIN GREGG (9TH) AND GEO

    Jul 6 9:41 PM


  • NL
    AT CHICAGO CUBS - SCORING UPDATE
    SOLO HOME RUN BY NATE MCLOUTH (14) TO RIGHT WITH 0 OUT IN
    THE 5TH OFF RANDY WELLS.
    CURRENT SCORE: ATLANTA 2, CHICAGO CUBS 4
    DUE UP FOR ATLANTA: M PRADO (.325, 0-FOR-2)

    Braves 2, Cubs 4  Top 5, 0 OutsJul 6 8:23 PM


  • NL
    AT CHICAGO CUBS - SCORING UPDATE
    SINGLE BY YUNEL ESCOBAR SCORED CHIPPER JONES.
    SITUATION: 1 RUN IN, Y ESCOBAR ON FIRST, G ANDERSON ON SECOND, 1 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: ATLANTA 1
    CHICAGO CUBS 4 TOP, 4TH
    DUE UP FOR ATLANTA: C KOTCHMAN (.271, 0-FOR-1)

    Braves 1, Cubs 4  Top 4, 0 OutsJul 6 8:08 PM


  • NL
    AT CHICAGO CUBS - SCORING UPDATE
    SINGLE BY RYAN THERIOT SCORED RANDY WELLS.
    SITUATION: 2 RUNS IN, R THERIOT ON FIRST, K FUKUDOME ON THIRD, 2 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: ATLANTA 0
    CHICAGO CUBS 4 BOTTOM, 2ND
    DUE UP FOR CHICAGO CUBS: D LEE (.287, 1-FOR-1, HR, 2 RBI)

    Braves 0, Cubs 4  Bot 2, 0 OutsJul 6 7:41 PM


  • NL
    AT CHICAGO CUBS - SCORING UPDATE
    DOUBLE BY KOSUKE FUKUDOME SCORED MIKE FONTENOT.
    SITUATION: 1 RUN IN, K FUKUDOME ON SECOND, R WELLS ON THIRD, 2 OUT
    CURRENT SCORE: ATLANTA 0
    CHICAGO CUBS 3 BOTTOM, 2ND
    DUE UP FOR CHICAGO CUBS: R THERIOT (.289, 0-FOR-0, SAC)

    Braves 0, Cubs 3  Bot 2, 0 OutsJul 6 7:40 PM


  • NL
    AT CHICAGO CUBS - SCORING UPDATE
    TWO-RUN HOME RUN BY DERREK LEE (16) TO LEFT CENTER WITH 1
    OUT IN THE 1ST OFF JAIR JURRJENS SCORED KOSUKE FUKUDOME.
    CURRENT SCORE: ATLANTA 0, CHICAGO CUBS 2
    DUE UP FOR CHICAGO CUBS: M BRADLEY (.245, 6 HR, 19 RBI)

    Braves 0, Cubs 2  Bot 1, 0 OutsJul 6 7:23 PM