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Braves lose game, Cubs lose Soriano

POSTED: June 22, 2008 5:02 a.m.

CHICAGO — A costly win for the Chicago Cubs.

The NL Central leaders beat Atlanta 7-2 Wednesday night, but lost star leadoff hitter Alfonso Soriano for up to six weeks with a broken left hand after he was hit by a pitch.

"A bad break for us. Just an unfortunate thing," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "It's a shame, it really is. Things happen in baseball."

Soriano was hit by Atlanta starter Jeff Bennett in the second inning, left the game and went to a hospital for X-rays.

Soriano will be in a splint for three weeks, Cubs spokesman Peter Chase said.

Ryan Dempster (8-2) pitched a four-hitter and struck out 11 in his first complete game since Sept. 25, 2002, when he led Cincinnati over the Cubs.

Dempster, the closer-turned-starter, is now 8-0 this season at Wrigley Field. The Cubs improved to 28-8 at home this year.

Kosuke Fukudome hit a three-run homer in the first off spot starter Bennett (0-4). Pinch-hitter Corky Miller had a two-run homer for the Braves.

Braves star Chipper Jones, who didn't start the last two games because of a small tear in his right quadriceps, went 1-for-3 and his average dropped a point to .419. He was not able to run at full speed and left the game after striking out in the top of the sixth.

Bennett made an emergency start after Jair Jurrjens twisted his ankle on the steps leading from the Braves clubhouse after Tuesday night's loss. Normally a reliever, it was Bennett's fourth start of the season and first in seven weeks.

He gave up seven hits and seven earned runs in two-plus innings, leaving to boos when he was driven out in the third, mainly because he'd hit Soriano.

For a team that has not won the World Series since 1908, the injury to Soriano was startlingly bad luck. He entered the game with a .284 average, a team-high 15 homers and 40 RBIs.

Bennett's inside pitch caught Soriano just as he was turning to begin his swing and he immediately sunk to the ground.

Trainer Mark O'Neal and Piniella came out of the dugout. Soriano was one knee while O'Neal examined him, then walked to the dugout and was taken to a hospital.

The Cubs led 3-0 at the time of his departure. Soriano had grounded out in his first at-bat in the first inning.

Mike Fontenot came in to run for Soriano and stayed in the game at second base. Mark DeRosa, who started the game at second, switched to Soriano's spot in left field.

One pitch after his foul ball to the left of the plate hit a fan in the side of the head — the fan was treated and released at a first aid station — Fukudome lifted a three-run homer to right center. After Bennett had retired Soriano and Theriot to start the first, Derrek Lee walked and Aramis Ramirez singled in front of Fukudome's fifth homer.

After Soriano had to leave the game in the second, Theriot delivered a two-run double to put the Cubs up 5-0.

Bennett couldn't retire a batter in the third as Ramirez singled past second baseman Kelly Johnson, Fukudome walked and Geovany Soto singled to load the bases. Jim Edmonds then hit a two-run single to center to finish Bennett and put the Cubs up 7-0.

<B>Notes:<P> Piniella said before the game he wouldn't lengthen the time between Dempster's starts leading up to the All-Star break. He could get six- and seven-day respites between outings to keep his arm fresh.



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