Braves vs. Cubs
When: 8:05 tonight
Where: Wrigley Field, Chicago
Pitchers: Braves, RHP Javier Vazquez (5-7, 3.05); Cubs, RHP Ryan Dempster (5-5, 4.09)
TV, radio: SportSouth; 102.9 FM
CHICAGO — Randy Wells was a 38th-round draft pick pick in 2002 and spent most of the next six years in the minor leagues, waiting for that chance every player craves.
It came when he was called up by the Chicago Cubs in May. And the way he’s been pitching, there won’t be a return trip to Triple-A.
"I can’t really put in words, even if I try, to be in the position I’m in when they told me I was going to make a couple of starts early in May," Wells said Monday night after beating the Atlanta Braves 4-2 for his fourth straight victory. It was the Braves third straight loss on the heels of a five-game winning streak.
"It’s rewarding for me," he added. "It’s been a long journey. I couldn’t ask for anything more."
Wells (4-3) gave up seven hits and two runs in six innings, including a homer to Nate McLouth. He got early support when the Cubs scored four runs in the first two innings, including a two-run homer by Derrek Lee off Jair Jurrjens in the first.
Wells nearly made the Cubs’ roster out of spring training as a reliever. But being sent back to Triple-A Iowa allowed him to stretch out as a starter and work on his pitches. Now the rookie has become a key member of the Cubs’ rotation.
"Sitting in Iowa for three or four years, whatever it was, you are on the cusp," Wells said. "All you can ask for is the shot, get an opportunity to show you can play."
Jurrjens (6-7), who held the Phillies hitless for 6 2-3 innings in his previous start, gave up four runs and seven hits in six innings, including Lee’s 16th homer.
"He’s been hot a couple weeks, and when you hang a pitch like that you’re going to pay," Jurrjens said.
"I wish I could take those two innings back, especially the pitch to Lee."
Lee’s been swinging a strong bat since mid-May, helping the Cubs make up for the absence of Aramis Ramirez, who returned Monday after two months on the DL with a dislocated shoulder.
"Basically he’s been carrying us," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said of Lee, who has four homers in the last five games.
"You feel like if you get a good pitch to hit, you’re going to hit it hard," Lee said. "It’s definitely a lot more fun than grounding out to the shortstop every at-bat and running back to the dugout."
Ramirez got a loud ovation in his first at-bat. He went 0-for-4.
"I want to go out there and play. That’s what I get paid to do and finally I’m doing it," said Ramirez, who was admittedly rusty. "Of course, I haven’t played in two months. I went down to the minors and got nine at-bats, but it’s not the same."
Jurrjens had given up only six homers all year before Lee drove a pitch deep into the left-field bleachers in the first — one out after a leadoff single by Kosuke Fukudome — to give the Cubs an early cushion.
The Cubs tacked on two more in the second with four straight two-out hits. Mike Fontenot and Wells singled, Fukudome lined an RBI double into the right-field corner and Ryan Theriot beat an out an infield single to short as Wells scored for a 4-0 lead.
"JJ was fine, just made a real bad pitch to Derrek," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "The other one, he had two outs with Fontenot and the pitcher and they ended up getting two more. After that, they got nothing."
Atlanta had three singles off Wells in the fourth, including an RBI liner to center by Yunel Escobar that cut the lead to 4-1. And when Wells’ fumbled Casey Kotchman’s dribbler to the left of the mound for an error, the Braves had the bases loaded. Wells escaped by striking out Matt Diaz and getting Jurrjens to hit into a forceout.
McClouth led off the fifth with his 14th homer — fifth since joining the Braves — to cut the lead in half.
Kevin Gregg worked the ninth for his 15th save in 18 chances.NOTES: Wells is the first Cubs rookie to win four straight starts since Kerry Wood in 1998, according to Elias Sports Bureau. ... Jeff Francoeur was out of Atlanta’s starting lineup for a third straight day Monday, benched in favor of hot-hitting outfielder Matt Diaz. Francoeur pinch hit in the seventh and had an infield single.