ATLANTA — Dale Sveum had a blunt appraisal for the Cubs’ play in the first half of the season and a simple plan for better results.
Sveum said the Cubs can improve by taking care of such basics as throwing strikes and hitting with runners were in scoring position.
A few homers also help.
Bryan LaHair, Jeff Baker and Anthony Rizzo hit home runs, Paul Maholm threw six strong innings and Chicago continued its success against Atlanta by beating the Braves 5-1 on Wednesday night.
Paul Maholm (6-6) gave up one run on eight hits in six innings. He had only one walk with five strikeouts.
The Cubs (31-50) are in last place in the NL Central but have won seven of their last nine and are only one-half game behind fifth-place Houston at the midpoint of the 162-game schedule.
“When you’re 20 games under .500, you’ve obviously underachieved,” Sveum said.
The Braves, third in the NL East, fell 6 games behind first-place Washington.
NATIONALS 9, GIANTS 4: In Washington, Ryan Zimmerman’s line drive to right-center field kept going and landed in the first row, highlighting another big Fourth of July for the resurgent third baseman and the National League East-leading Nationals.
Zimmerman missed another home run by inches – he had to settle for an RBI double. He is 10 for 20 with four homers and 13 RBI in six Independence Day games.
PHILLIES 9, METS 2: In New York, Cliff Lee finally posted his first win of the season as Philadelphia hit three late homers to snap a six-game losing streak. Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz hit consecutive home runs in the seventh inning as the Phillies rallied from a 2-0 deficit.
Lee (1-5) had gone a puzzling 13 starts this year without a victory.
PIRATES 6, ASTROS 4: In Pittsburgh, Mike McKenry and Pedro Alvarez drove in two runs each as the Pirates looked pretty comfortable during their first day in first place. The Pirates moved nine games above .500 (45-36) for the first time since Barry Bonds played in Pittsburgh 20 years ago.
MARLINS 7, BREWERS 6, 10 inn.: In Milwaukee, Hanley Ramirez hit an RBI single off reliever Manny Parra in the 10th to lead Florida. Ramirez’s big hit came after the Marlins rallied from a one-run deficit in the ninth, when Gaby Sanchez hit a solo home run off Brewers closer John Axford to tie the game at 6.
CARDINALS 4, ROCKIES 1: In St. Louis, Adam Wainwright pitched six strong innings and Matt Holliday had three hits to lead the Cardinals.
Wainwright (7-8) gave up one run, struck out seven and allowed eight hits to help the Cardinals win for the third time in four games. He fanned seven of the first 13 hitters.