Cubs hand Braves, Shelby Miller 5-3 loss
CHICAGO (AP) — Shelby Miller was pitching well enough to end his long winless slide.
But then both Miller and the Braves defense made some costly mistakes that sent Atlanta to its fifth straight loss.
Kris Bryant and Miguel Montero had consecutive RBI doubles in a two-run sixth and the Chicago Cubs extended Miller's winless skid to 17 games with a 5-3 victory over the Braves on Friday.
Anthony Rizzo added an RBI single in the seventh for Chicago, which rallied after the Braves pulled ahead 3-1 in the fourth.
"Obviously we had a couple of errors," Miller said. "I made a couple of mistakes on the mound that were kind of costly."
Miller (5-10) dropped his career-high ninth straight decision. He only allowed two hits, including Chris Coghlan's solo homer, over the first five innings. But he gave up five runs overall — three earned — after the Braves made a pair of errors. Miller also walked four.
"Walks were obviously an issue," Miller said. "I think the strike zone was a little tight at some times.
"I was kind of throwing some lazy curveballs and throwing some lazy sinkers sometimes, but other than that I felt good."
Manager Fredi Gonzalez was more surprised by his normally reliable defense as Atlanta dropped its ninth in its past 11.
"That's not us," Gonzalez said. "I don't know when the last time was our infield made an error that cost us anything."
Jason Motte (8-1) earned the win in relief, starting a string of four innings during which Cubs relievers didn't allow a hit until pinch-hitter Nick Swisher doubled with one out in the ninth off closer Hector Rondon.
Rondon recovered to earn his 22nd save in 26 opportunities after Cubs came back for their second straight win following a three-game slide.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon's bullpen moves went exactly as planned.
"It was outstanding," Maddon said. "It exemplifies, typifies that we don't quit.
"Their guy (Miller) was really good," Maddon added. "Really good riding fastball and a nice cutter through the backdoor against lefties. I didn't know he was that good, but he is."
Miller struck out eight in 6 1-3 innings and allowed six hits. After allowing a first-inning home run to Coghlan, he retired 10 of 11 batters before running into trouble in the fifth and sixth innings.
Chicago, which never led until the sixth, got to 3-2 in the fifth when Montero scored on a throwing error by Braves third baseman Pedro Ciriaco when he attempted to start a double play.
Atlanta grabbed a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning when Nick Markakis lined a two-out double over the head of center fielder Dexter Fowler.
Markakis scored on Freddie Freeman's fielder's choice in the first inning after hitting a sharp single on the game's first pitch.
Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks left after five innings. Hendricks allowed three runs and seven hits. He struck out seven with one walk.
Cubs: Bryant returned to the lineup after being pulled from Thursday's game after fouling a ball off his foot in the fifth inning. Manager Joe Maddon said Friday that Bryant experienced soreness in his foot after the game.
Braves RHP Williams Perez (4-4, 4.34 ERA) will be looking for his first win in August after losing his past three starts.
Cubs RHP Dan Haren (6-5, 3.38) will make his fourth start for the Cubs and trying for his second win in a Chicago uniform after coming over from the Marlins in a trade last month.
Gonzalez watched Thursday's game from a video room after being ejected for arguing balls and strikes in Chicago's four-run third inning — and came away with an different perspective.
"On the bench you see the whole game," he said. "On TV, 90 percent of the game is pitcher and catcher."