By ANDREW SELIGMAN, AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO (AP) — Rolling along and threatening to put away the NL Central race, the Chicago Cubs got tripped up by a rookie making his first major league start.
Even so, manager Joe Maddon will take a 6-1 homestand.
“You’d have to be an idiot to not be happy,” he said.
Max Fried combined with four relievers on a five-hitter in his first major league start, and the Atlanta Braves ended the Cubs’ six-game winning streak with a 5-1 victory Sunday.
The Cubs had matched their longest winning string of the season. Rookie Ian Happ hit his 21st homer, but Chicago couldn’t get much going coming off a 14-12 victory. With Milwaukee beating Washington, the Cubs lead the Brewers by 3 1/2 games in the division.
“We played great all week,” Maddon said. “We’ve done so many things well all week.”
The Cubs also lost Javier Baez because of blurred vision. Chicago’s electrifying star took a knee to the right eye while diving into second base in the second inning and exited the game in the third.
Recalled from Triple-A on Friday, Fried (1-0) gave up a run and four hits in five innings. He got out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth, and the bullpen took over from there, holding Chicago to one hit.
That preserved the first career win for Fried, who had made four relief appearances for the Braves last month.
What will stand out most to him?
“Getting the win,” Fried said. “With all the uncertainty with this being my first start, having that confidence, coming out with the win and going five innings — it’s the first time I’ve done that since before the All-Star break.”
Rio Ruiz had two singles and drove in three runs. Freddie Freeman had two hits and scored a run. Dansby Swanson singled, doubled and drove in a run, and Atlanta won for just the third time in nine games.
Happ tied it at 1 for the Cubs with a drive to center in the second. The Braves regained the lead in the fourth when Freeman led off with a double and Nick Markakis walked, setting up RBI singles by Swanson and Ruiz.
Ruiz added a two-run single in the ninth to bump the lead to four.
Mike Montgomery (5-7) gave up three runs and five hits in five innings. The left-hander dominated while winning his previous two starts filling in for Jon Lester.
Happ’s 21 home runs are fifth most among Cubs rookies. … Chicago had won a season-high nine straight home games.
The Cubs recalled LHP Rob Zastryzny from Triple-A Iowa. This is his fourth stint with the club this season.
Braves: CF Ender Inciarte was in the lineup after fouling a pitch off his right ankle and leaving Saturday’s game.
Cubs: Baez had just walked when he got caught off first and sprinted toward second. His helmet flew off as he dove into the bag, and his eye hit 2B Ozzie Albies’ knee. Baez came out to shortstop in the third inning but exited with one out after motioning toward the dugout. Mike Freeman replaced him on Sunday. Baez was expected to join the team in Pittsburgh on Monday.
Braves: Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (9-8, 3.91 ERA) looks to build on a strong start as the Braves open a three-game series against RHP Andrew Cashner (8-9, 3.30) and the Texas Rangers. Dickey held Philadelphia to a run in eight innings on Wednesday.
Cubs: RHP Jake Arrieta (14-8, 3.36) tries to keep his roll going as the Cubs open a four-game series at Pittsburgh. The 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner went 4-1 with a major league-best 1.21 ERA in six starts in August. RHP Chad Kuhl (6-10, 4.54) starts for the Pirates.