Cubs, Wells victorious in Ramirez's return
Starter wins fourth straight; Lee hits fifth homer in July
CHICAGO -- Aramis Ramirez is the type of slugger whom opposing managers often choose to walk intentionally. On Monday, the Atlanta Braves pitched around another hitter to get to Ramirez.
The third baseman was on deck with two outs in the seventh inning when the Braves chose to have right-hander Peter Moylan walk Milton Bradley with a man on second. Ramirez then grounded out to end the inning and finish 0-for-4 in his first game since he dislocated his left shoulder on May 8.
The Cubs still went on to win, 4-2, behind a stellar outing from pitcher Randy Wells and Derrek Lee's fifth home run in his last six games. But it was clear Ramirez will have some rust to shake off after completing a three-game Minor League rehab stint.
"I haven't played in two months," said Ramirez, who agreed with the Braves' decision to walk Bradley. "I went down to the Minors and got nine at-bats, but it's not the same."
Ramirez, who received a standing ovation from the crowd of 40,042 at Wrigley Field before his first at-bat, grounded out three times and lined out. Having the third baseman back in the lineup still provided a boost for the Cubs, who have won five of six and trail St. Louis by two games in the National League Central.
"His presence in the lineup and in the field, it really makes a difference," Lee said. "Jake Fox did a great job filling in, but Aramis, he's done it for so long that he's someone the pitcher really has to worry about."
Kosuke Fukudome led off the first with a single, the first of his two hits in his second successive game in the top spot in the lineup. After Ryan Theriot's sacrifice bunt, Lee crushed a hanging slider from Braves starter Jair Jurrjens over the wall in left-center field for his 16th home run.
Lee finished 2-for-4 with a double and has 14 RBIs in six games in July.
"He's basically been carrying us," manager Lou Piniella said.
The Cubs added a pair of runs in the second against Jurrjens (6-7), who allowed more than three earned runs for just the third time this season. With two outs and nobody on, Mike Fontenot and Wells singled before Fukudome ripped an RBI double down the right-field line. Theriot followed with an infield single that scored Wells and made it 4-0.
"It was a tough, tough game," Jurrjens said. "I wish I could take back those two innings, especially the pitch to Lee."
The four runs were plenty for Wells (4-3), who allowed two runs over six innings and has given up three runs or fewer in 10 of his 11 starts this season. Outside of Nate McLouth's solo home run in the fifth, the only serious trouble Wells ran into came in the fourth.
Chipper Jones and Brian McCann opened the frame with consecutive singles, and after Garret Anderson's fielder's choice grounder moved runners to first and third with one out, Yunel Escobar drove in Atlanta's first run with a single.
Wells then bobbled Casey Kotchman's check-swing grounder for an error, loading the bases. But the 26-year-old rookie struck out Matt Diaz and got Jurrjens to ground out to end the inning. His 2.48 ERA is the best among rookies with at least 50 innings pitched.
"When you get in jams, you've got to concentrate on what you need to do to limit the damage," Wells said. "I had to battle to get out of that inning."
Sean Marshall got himself out of a tough spot in the seventh, retiring McCann with two on and two out. Carlos Marmol induced Kotchman into a 4-6-3 double play to end the eighth, and Kevin Gregg worked around a two-out single in the ninth to earn his 15th save.
Wells said he felt confident about Chicago's prospects for the rest of the season now that the team has its lineup back intact. On Monday, the team had all eight of its projected starting position players in the lineup for the first time since Opening Day.
"A team with this many quality guys, this many quality athletes and ballplayers, you can't keep them down very long," Wells said. "We hit a rough spot there, but eventually, guys are going to come out of it."
Andrew Simon is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.