LaRoche homers twice as Davies stifles Cubs

ATLANTA (AP) -- Adam LaRoche was a strong hitter in the second

half of his 2004 rookie year, and with the Atlanta Braves already

past the midpoint of this season, he's picking up the pace again.

LaRoche homered twice and drove in three runs, and Kyle Davies

outpitched Kerry Wood to lead Atlanta over the Chicago Cubs 4-0

Monday night.

The Cubs have lost five straight to fall below .500 for the

first time since May 28.

Davies (4-2) pitched four-hit ball into the seventh inning,

helping Atlanta pull within 4½ games of first-place Washington in

the NL East. He walked four but held an opponent scoreless for the

fourth time in nine major league starts.

The rookie has provided a big boost to a Braves rotation that

has three starters on the disabled list, but manager Bobby Cox

said, "LaRoche has got to get the star of the game tonight."

LaRoche hit .302 with 10 homers after the All-Star break last

season to finish with a .278 mark, 13 homers and 45 RBI.

Still sharing time with Julio Franco at first base, LaRoche

already has 11 homers and 50 RBI this season. He has three home

runs in the first four days of July after hitting two in June.

"I've been feeling good the last couple weeks," LaRoche said.

"It's been nice to come out of the funk I've been in."

All-Star outfielder Andruw Jones is the only Braves player with

more homers or RBI than LaRoche.

A Turner Field regular-season record crowd of 52,274 saw the

Braves win for the 14th time in 20 games.

LaRoche's two-run shot off Wood (1-2) highlighted Atlanta's

three-run first inning. He added his 11th homer in the eighth

inning for his second career two-homer game.

With one out in the sixth, Davies walked Jeromy Burnitz and gave

up a sharp single to Aramis Ramirez. He pitched out of the jam by

retiring Todd Hollandsworth and Neifi Perez, but was lifted after

issuing a walk with two outs in the seventh.

Davies said he received a tip from John Smoltz between starts.

"He said my front leg was a little weak," Davies said, adding

that he tried to finish his follow-through stronger on his landing

leg this time.

"That's why my balls have been up," Davies said.

Making his second start since coming off the disabled list, Wood

gave up six hits and three runs in five innings. He walked three

and struck out six.

Wood ran into first-inning trouble with one-out walks to Kelly

Johnson and Marcus Giles. Jones' single drove in Johnson, but Giles

was thrown out at third by Jerry Hairston.

LaRoche followed with his two-run homer to center for a 3-0


"I made a few mistakes, and they hurt me," Wood said. "The

hit by Jones was up the middle and then the home run. After that, I

made better pitches. ... I felt strong. I thought I threw the ball

pretty well after the first inning."

Cubs manager Dusty Baker said Wood "found the heart of the

plate" on LaRoche's homer.

The Cubs wasted a scoring opportunity in the eighth. Burnitz

walked with one out but was thrown out by Jones in center after

taking a big turn at second and then trying to return to the bag on

Hollandsworth's single.

LaRoche led off the eighth with his second homer, another shot

to center, off Will Ohman.

Told that he was Cox's star of the game, LaRoche passed the

honor on to Davies.

"That was very nice of him, but I'm going to give it to Kyle,"

LaRoche said. "For him to do what he did against that lineup, with

as little experience as he's had, I can't say enough about him."

Baker said Davies "was pretty good."

"He kept the ball away, like Braves pitchers always do," Baker

said.Game notes
Cubs reliever Mike Remlinger plunked Johnny Estrada with a

pitch in the sixth inning. The pitch hit Estrada's shoulder and

then his helmet. Estrada, who suffered a concussion in a home-plate

collision on June 6, stayed in the game. ... LaRoche's other

two-homer game was Aug. 11, 2004, against Milwaukee. ... Davies

began his major league career by winning his first two starts,

pitching a combined 10 1/3 innings in wins over Boston and the New

York Mets.