Ramirez outpitches Prior, shuts down struggling Cubs
ATLANTA (Ticker) --
did whatever he wanted on the mound and there was nothing the
could do about it.
Ramirez yielded three hits in his first career shutout to lead the
to a 6-0 victory over the Cubs in the first game of a day-night doubleheader.
The Cubs, whose losing streak was extended to seven games, never were able to threaten Ramirez. Playing without All-Star first baseman
, who has an inflamed left shoulder, Chicago's offense was non-existent, with no Cub advancing past second base.
"Boy, it seems like it's tough every day," Cubs manager
said. "This is a tough period we're going through right now. It hurts not to have D-Lee in there, especially against a lefthander."
Ramirez (8-5), who tossed his third career complete game, struck out four and walked one as he improved to 5-1 at home. He had great control from the beginning, throwing a first-pitch strike to 16 of the first 20 batters he faced.
"I'm pretty happy about my control," said Ramirez, who tossed 100 pitches. "I just simplified things. I used three pitches - fastball, cutter and changeup - and kept it simple."
"The difference today was he was pitching ahead," Braves catcher
said. "He came out and attacked the zone, they came out swinging. He was able to get some easy outs. This is when he's at his best."
Atlanta, which has outscored Chicago, 15-1, in the first three games of the series, blew this one open with a five-run fifth inning.
had an RBI double,
added a run-scoring single and
capped the frame with a three-run homer to right against Prior to give the Braves a 6-0 lead.
"He'd been pitching a good game," Franco said. "He made a mistake up and away instead of down and in. Until then, it was 3-0. You want to score a lot of runs when you face Prior because two or three runs, it's going to be hard to beat him. We got some clutch hits against him today."
"I made a bad pitch to Franco," Prior said. "I was trying to go in and I missed over the plate."
Making his third start since coming off the disabled list with a broken elbow, Prior (5-3) allowed six runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings. He struck out five but walked four in his worst outing since May 1, when he surrendered eight runs and seven hits in five innings at Houston.
"I didn't throw the ball as well as I would have liked to," Prior said. "They had some quality at-bats. I had a tough time with my curveball. I didn't have it from the get-go."
Atlanta opened the scoring in the first when Franco drew a one-out walk, advanced to third on a double by Estrada and scored on a sacrifice fly by rookie
That would be all the offense Ramirez would need.
The lefthander rebounded from a poor outing in Philadelphia in which he surrendered six runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. In this one, he allowed just four Chicago hitters to reach base and gave the Atlanta bullpen the afternoon off.
"It was Horacio's day," Braves manager
said. "We didn't even have to warm anybody up (in the bullpen). That's a huge plus."
The Cubs (40-43) have been held scoreless for 16 consecutive innings and fell three games under .500 for the first time since May 26.