Braves set to welcome back McCann against Cubs

There is no doubt that Dan Uggla's hitting streak has injected some life into the Braves lineup.

Atlanta is set to get another boost this afternoon with the expected return of catcher Brian McCann for the rubber match of a three-game series with the Chicago Cubs at Turner Field.

A six-time All-Star, McCann is batting .306 this season with 18 homers and 55 runs batted in, but has been out of the Braves' lineup since suffering a strained left oblique on July 26. He went 1-for-3 with a homer over five innings of a minor league game with Triple-A Gwinnett on Saturday and said he is ready to return to the majors today.

"I am alright," McCann told Atlanta's website. "It is getting better and better. I am good enough to get in there and play."

McCann will try not to serve as a jinx for Uggla' run, which reached 33 straight games in last night's 8-4 loss. Uggla extended his streak with a first-inning single and added his third homer in two games later on.

Uggla already passed Rico Carty's Atlanta-era record of 31 straight games set in 1970 and is now closing in on the longest hitting streak in Braves history. That is owned by Tommy Holmes, who hit in 37 straight games back in 1945 while the franchise was located in Boston.

Uggla's burst began on July 5 and he has homered 15 times during the run while batting .377. Still, it wasn't enough to give Atlanta a sixth straight win on Saturday after Derek Lowe allowed five runs over six innings.

Lowe gave up 10 of Chicago's 14 hits and was left surprised by the results.

"That's the scary thing of this game," Lowe said. "I really, looking back at it, wouldn't have changed many pitches. I can say that [catcher] David [Ross] did a great job and for the most part we executed, and 10 hits later, another loss."

Atlanta still leads the National League Wild Card by five games, but did fall 8 1/2 contests back of first-place Philadelphia in the NL East.

Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney both had four-hit games for the Cubs, who won for the 10th time in 13 games on the same day they placed pitcher Carlos Zambrano on the disqualified list after he cleared out his locker and left the team after getting hit hard in Friday's loss.

Castro and Carlos Pena both drove in a pair of runs and Randy Wells allowed two runs over his five-plus innings to get the win.

"To be able to go against a great lineup like that, I pretty much had to battle every pitch, every inning," Wells said. "It's nice to be able to sneak away with a win."

A pair of mistakes that turned into home runs doomed Matt Garza last time out and the Cubs starter will try to bounce back in today's finale.

Garza threw five scoreless innings against the Nationals on Tuesday before allowing three runs on two homers in the sixth inning. That led to him taking the loss despite his 13th quality start.

"It's tough when you make two mistakes and you struggle in a game," Cubs manager Mike Quade said of Garza.

The right-hander, who had beaten the Pirates in his previous outing with seven scoreless innings, fell to 5-9 with a 3.81 earned run average and will face the Braves for the first time. Garza, 27, will try to straighten out his issues on the road, where he is 2-5 with a 5.20 ERA in 10 games this year.

The Braves' Brandon Beachy faces the Cubs for the first time in his young career looking to extend his four-start unbeaten streak.

The 24-year-old righty is 2-0 with a 2.52 ERA over that run, but got a no- decision in Florida on Tuesday after winning consecutive starts. Beachy gave up just two runs on three hits and three walks over 6 2/3 innings, recording 10 strikeouts.

In 17 starts this year, Beachy is 5-2 with a 3.43 ERA.

Atlanta has won nine of its past 14 against Chicago.