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Sunday August 30th, 2015 4:02PM

Braves' Santana remains unbeaten, blanks Cubs

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA -- Ervin Santana almost was knocked out by a rain delay.

It was a bigger scare than he ever faced from the Cubs.

Santana pitched five-hit ball for seven innings to remain unbeaten, Ryan Doumit snapped a scoreless tie with a pinch-hit double in the seventh and the Atlanta Braves beat Chicago 2-0 on Saturday night.

Santana (4-0) overcame that delay of 1 hour, 7 minutes in the third inning and outlasted Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija, who had his long winless streak continue.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he would have pulled Santana if the delay lasted only a few minutes longer.

"We were about five to 10 minutes from shutting him down," Gonzalez said. "It was that long.

"You don't want guys sitting around for an hour and a half, an hour and 20 minutes. We were that close, really."

Santana walked one and struck out seven.

"Santana was terrific - better than terrific, really," Gonzalez said.

Samardzija was just as strong. He allowed only two hits with one walk and seven strikeouts in six innings. He lowered his ERA to 1.45, second in the NL, but he is still without a win this season.

Samardzija's winless streak was extended to 14 starts. His last victory came on Aug. 24, 2013, at San Diego. He said the long drought wasn't wearing on him.

"No. I understand the situation, I understand how things go," he said. "Baseball is a funny sport. It's just one of those things where you learn from it. It usually comes around in the end and it all evens out."

Braves left fielder Justin Upton left the game in the sixth with a lower back muscle bruise after being hit by a pitch from Samardzija. He is day to day.

Braves closer Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 10th save.

Kimbrel, who blew a 2-1 lead in the ninth in the Braves' 3-2 win in 10 innings on Friday night, was back in form. He walked Starlin Castro with two outs before striking out Luis Valbuena to end the game.

The Braves scored two runs in the seventh off right-hander Brian Schlitter (2-1). Following singles by Chris Johnson and Andrelton Simmons, Doumit pinch hit for Santana and drove in Johnson with his double. Simmons scored on Tyler Pastornicky's suicide squeeze bunt.

The NL East-leading Braves have won three of four after losing seven straight.

"I don't think we've clicked on all cylinders yet from an offensive standpoint, from a defensive standpoint, a pitching standpoint," Doumit said. "I think we're starting to show we can and once we do it's really going to be scary."

Upton ran to first base after being hit by the pitch from Samardzija. After being checked by Braves trainer Jeff Lovell, he walked slowly off the field in apparent pain.

Upton had another injury scare in the fourth inning. He appeared to hurt his lower back when he tagged Anthony Rizzo at the end of a long run-down between first and second. Upton ran in from the outfield to help on the play. Rizzo collided with Upton, who then bent over and reached for his lower back but remained in the game.

Upton said the pitch from Samardzija hit him in about the same spot as where he felt the pain in the fourth inning. He said he felt a spasm in the back muscle in the sixth.

Gonzalez said he likely would give Upton a day off on Sunday.

NOTES: The Braves placed RHP Jordan Walden on the 15-day DL, retroactive to May 5, with a strained left hamstring. LHP Ian Thomas was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett. Walden has one save and a 2.92 ERA in 14 games. Thomas was sent to Gwinnett on Sunday with instructions to work on his slider. ... The Cubs have lost six of seven. ... The Braves are 12-0 when scoring the first run in a game. ... Gonzalez said LHP Jonny Venters, recovering from his second Tommy John surgery, will report to the team's minor league complex in Orlando and will begin throwing batting practice on Friday. ... The series ends on Sunday with Atlanta's Aaron Harang facing Chicago's Edwin Jackson in a matchup of right-handers.
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