CHICAGO (AP) - Aramis Ramirez insists there's a simple reason why he's making it look so easy at the moment.
He's more relaxed.
He would really be at peace if the Chicago Cubs were contending for a playoff spot or at least found a way to pull out this game.
Instead, they came up short, losing 5-4 to the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night even though the surging Ramirez set a career high with five hits.
Craig Kimbrel tied a major league rookie record with his 40th save, and Jason Heyward hit his first career grand slam, lifting the Braves to their sixth straight win.
``I wish we could win some more games,' said Ramirez, who has a 12-game hitting streak.
Kimbrel worked the ninth for his 40th save in 45 opportunities, tying a mark set by Texas' Neftali Feliz last season. He ran his scoreless streak to 31 2-3 innings as Atlanta won for the eighth time in nine games.
Ramirez singled with two outs in the ninth for the Cubs for his fifth hit and advanced to second when Heyward bobbled the ball in right, but pinch-hitter Tyler Colvin struck out to end the game.
How hot is Ramirez at the moment? Well, he's 27 for 48 during this streak.
``When you (see) your pitch, don't miss it,' he said. ``This is the big leagues, and they're going to make some mistakes. When they do make some mistakes, you've got to make them pay.'
That's exactly what he's doing, and his performance on Tuesday helped steer the attention away from shortstop Starlin Castro and his recent lapse in concentration.
``He is locked in,' manager Mike Quade said. ``He's got an excellent approach. We've seen him hot in Chicago before, but I don't know if he's been any hotter than this.'
Quade was referring to Ramirez, of course. But he also had some praise for his All-Star.
Castro was back in the lineup for Chicago after sitting out a game because he wasn't paying attention in the field. He appeared to be engaged this time, making a diving stop in the eighth on Gonzalez's grounder to start a double play, and also had a single.
``He played a good game,' Quade said. ``One day at a time.'
Chipper Jones had three hits for Atlanta. So did Heyward, none bigger than his shot in the fourth. He connected after Alex Gonzalez drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk off Casey Coleman (2-6), making it 5-0, but Mike Minor (4-2) nearly gave it all away in the fifth.
Alfonso Soriano led off a four-run rally with his 21st homer.
Ramirez drove a two-run double with two outs and came around when Gonzalez bounced the throw to first after fielding Jeff Baker's grounder to short, making it 5-4. Carlos Pena hit an inning-ending fly ball to the wall in center, barely preserving the lead.
Things got really tense in the seventh when the Cubs loaded the bases, but Chicago came away empty-handed. Arodys Vizcaino came in and retired Marlon Byrd on an inning-ending grounder to second on the first pitch.
The Cubs were just 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position and left nine runners on base after stranding a season-high 15 runners while losing to the Braves on Monday.
Minor won his third straight start and beat the Cubs for the second time in that span, giving up four runs and six hits over five innings.
Coleman went five innings, allowing five runs and five hits in his second start for the banished Carlos Zambrano.
Notes: Coming off one of his better starts, Derek Lowe is back on the mound as the Braves continue the series with the Cubs. The veteran right-hander threw five-plus scoreless innings in a win against Arizona. Randy Wells starts for Chicago. ... OF Jose Constanza was held out of the starting lineup after rolling his right ankle while beating out an infield hit in Monday's game. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez hopes he returns to the lineup on Wednesday. ... Braves RHP Tommy Hanson did not throw a scheduled bullpen session on Tuesday because of soreness related to the right rotator cuff tendinitis that's had him on the disabled list since Aug. 7. The soreness arose after Hanson threw nine pitches during an abbreviated throwing session on Monday. The Braves had hoped Hanson would be able to make a rehab start for Triple-A Gwinnett on Saturday, but those plans have been scuttled.
The Associated Press News Service
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