CHICAGO (AP) - Before Thursday's game, Chicago Cubs manager Mike Quade said the biggest factor in his team's improvement since the All-Star break was better defensive play. He might have spoken too soon.
Brian McCann homered twice and the Atlanta Braves took advantage of four Cubs errors to beat Chicago 8-3.
``We didn't execute very well on defense all the way around,' second baseman Darwin Barney said. ``You have those days. We've been playing very well on defense for the past while, so it's kind of weird to see that.'
The Cubs have played better in the field of late, but still lead the majors with 108 errors this season. Four of Atlanta's runs were unearned.
Matt Garza (6-10) allowed six runs - three earned - and eight hits over five innings. He struck out six and also committed one of the errors.
Garza was coming off one of his best starts of the season in a 3-0 win over St. Louis last Saturday, but never seemed to settle into a rhythm on Thursday.
``Garz just followed himself all day,' Quade said. ``Just never really could get on track and get in synch.
``I've seen him struggle before and he finds a way to settle down keep us in it. Just wasn't his day.'
Marlon Byrd homered and Tyler Colvin added a triple and a run for the Cubs.
The Braves took three of four from Chicago, which has gone 20-18 since the All-Star break.
After Michael Bourn led off the game with one of his four hits, Martin Prado reached when Garza dropped a flip from Carlos Pena at first for the first error of the day. Garza then fell behind McCann, who homered into a stiff wind in right-center and put the Braves ahead 3-0 before Garza had retired a batter.
``It is what it is, man,' Garza said. ``Really can't say much. When Bourn starts off the game with a jam shot, Prado hits the same thing, it's a slow roller. It's just frustrating. Oh well. Get ready in five more days, right?'
The Cubs cut into the lead on Barney's groundout in the bottom of the first. In the second, Byrd brought the Cubs within a run with a homer to left. Colvin tripled into the right-field corner and scored on Geovany Soto's dribbler, tying the score at 3-all.
The Braves regained the lead with two runs in the third with help from the Cubs. Castro committed his NL-leading 22nd error and Garza walked Dan Uggla with the bases full.
Barney and Reed Johnson also committed errors.
``To see Reed and Barn, you don't see that very often,' Quade said. ``The play Cassie was given an error on was a tougher play. I know he was trying to be quick because Bourn was running.'
Garza has had a hard-luck season, posting a sub-.500 record despite leading Cubs starters in strikeouts and ERA. With the end of the season in sight, he vowed to plug on.
``I'm not going to quit,' Garza said. ``What's the point of that? You might as well not even show up. I battled my butt off today. It's just one of those things. I can't explain it, don't have any words for it. Dumbfounded practically.'
NOTES: Cubs OF Alfonso Soriano was given a day off after he was hit in the right forearm by a pitch during Wednesday's game. Quade said Soriano was available for pinch-hitting duty and is expected to return to the lineup on Friday. ... Braves RHP Tommy Hanson left the team and returned to Atlanta to have his ailing shoulder re-evaluated by team doctors. Hanson has been on the disabled list since Aug. 7 because of right rotator cuff tendinitis. ... Manager Fredi Gonzalez said the Braves are ``closely monitoring' Hurricane Irene and the effect it might have on this weekend's series in New York against the Mets. ... The Braves open the three-game set on Friday, pitting RHP Tim Hudson, who has won eight of his last nine decisions, against Mets lefty Chris Capuano. ... The Cubs will make the short trip north to face the first-place Brewers in Milwaukee this weekend, with Chicago RHP Rodrigo Lopez squaring off against LHP Randy Wolf in Friday's opener. ... Chicago's Aramis Ramirez doubled in the eighth, his 700th career extra-base hit, and extended his hitting streak to 14 games.
The Associated Press News Service
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