Craig Kimbrel ties rookie saves record as Braves hold on to win 6th straight

CHICAGO -- That major league rookie record barely registered in Craig Kimbrel's mind. All he cared about were those final three outs.

Kimbrel tied the rookie mark with his 40th save, Jason Heyward hit his first career grand slam, and the Atlanta Braves hung on to win their sixth straight, beating the Chicago Cubs 5-4 on Tuesday night.

"I'll look back on it at the end of the year," Kimbrel said. "Right now, I'm just worried about helping us win and helping us get to the playoffs."

Kimbrel worked the ninth for his 40th save in 45 opportunities, tying a mark set by Texas' Neftali Feliz last season. He ran his scoreless streak to 31 2/3 innings as Atlanta won for the eighth time in nine games, and that's what mattered to him.

"It's pretty awesome," Kimbrel said. "When you're winning games, it's fun."

Sometimes, it's tense, too. This one certainly was, right to the end.

Aramis Ramirez singled with two outs in the ninth for the Cubs, giving him a career-high five hits while extending his hitting streak to 12 games. He advanced to second when Heyward bobbled the ball in right, but a pinch-hitting Tyler Colvin struck out to end the game.

"I feel pretty good," said Ramirez, who is 27 for 48 during this streak. "The last guy, he's got good stuff. I saw the ball well off him."

Kimbrel certainly is doing his part as the Braves try to secure a playoff spot. Manager Fredi Gonzalez used words like "unbelievable" to describe him and pointed out that he's becoming a more complete pitcher, mixing in breaking balls to go with the fastball and staying cool in tight situations.

Chipper Jones had three hits for Atlanta. So did Heyward, none bigger than his shot in the fourth. He connected after Alex Gonzalez drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk off Casey Coleman (2-6), making it 5-0, but Mike Minor (4-2) nearly gave it all away in the fifth.

Alfonso Soriano led off a four-run rally with his 21st homer.

Ramirez drove a two-run double with two outs and came around when Gonzalez bounced the throw to first after fielding Jeff Baker's grounder to short, making it 5-4. Carlos Pena hit an inning-ending fly ball to the wall in center, barely preserving the lead.

Things got really tense in the seventh when the Cubs loaded the bases, but Chicago came away empty-handed. Arodys Vizcaino came in and retired Marlon Byrd on an inning-ending grounder to second on the first pitch.

The Cubs were just 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position and left nine runners on base after stranding a season-high 15 runners while losing to the Braves on Monday.

Minor won his third straight start and beat the Cubs for the second time in that span, giving up four runs and six hits over five innings.

Coleman went five innings, allowing five runs and five hits in his second start for the banished Carlos Zambrano.

He ran into trouble with two outs in the fourth, and his 3-2 pitch to Gonzalez with the bases loaded just missed low and away, driving in the first run. Heyward made it a five-run game when he knocked a 1-2 pitch to the basket in left-center for his 13th homer and Atlanta's third grand slam this season.

"I knew he was going to try to come right at me because he didn't want to get behind again," he said.

All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro was back in the lineup for Chicago after sitting out a game because he wasn't paying attention in the field. He appeared to be engaged this time, making a diving stop in the eighth on Gonzalez's grounder to start a double play, and also had a single.

"He played a good game," manager Mike Quade said. "One day at a time."

Game notes
Coming off one of his better starts, Derek Lowe is back on the mound as the Braves continue the series with the Cubs. The veteran right-hander threw five-plus scoreless innings in a win against Arizona. Randy Wells starts for Chicago. ... OF Jose Constanza was held out of the starting lineup after rolling his right ankle while beating out an infield hit in Monday's game. Fredi Gonzalez hopes he returns to the lineup on Wednesday. ... Braves RHP Tommy Hanson did not throw a scheduled bullpen session on Tuesday because of soreness related to the right rotator cuff tendinitis that's had him on the DL since Aug. 7. The soreness arose after Hanson threw nine pitches during an abbreviated throwing session on Monday. The Braves had hoped Hanson would be able to make a rehab start for Triple-A Gwinnett on Saturday, but those plans have been scuttled.