Santana, Atlanta Braves blank Cubs

ATLANTA — Hard-luck Chicago Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija is still winless and the Atlanta Braves are a victory away from a weekend sweep.

Ervin Santana blanked the Cubs for seven innings and the Braves broke through against the Chicago bullpen for a 2-0 victory Saturday night before 30,658 at Turner Field in a game that was interrupted for more than an hour by rain.

Samardzija allowed just two hits in six innings and had seven strikeouts to one walk, but the right-hander remained winless in eight starts this season despite a 1.45 ERA.

Santana, who had been skipped a start because of a bruise near his right thumb, improved to 4-0 and lowered his ERA to 1.99. The right-hander allowed five hits, struck out seven and walked one.

Craig Kimbrel, who had allowed the Cubs to force extra innings on Friday, struck out two in the ninth inning and recorded his 10th save in 12 chances.

Samardzija, who had thrown 126 pitches over nine scoreless innings against the Chicago White on Monday, was lifted after 69 pitches and the Braves broke through against reliever Brian Schlitter (2-1) in the seventh.

Third baseman Chris Johnson led off with his second single of the game, was sacrificed to second and took third on a single by shortstop Andrelton Simmons.

Ryan Doumit, pinch hitting for Santana, drove in Johnson with a double and second baseman Tyler Pastornicky squeezed in Simmons with a perfect bunt.

Samardzija has gone 14 starts without a victory dating back to his last win on Aug. 24 last season. The Cubs have provided less than two runs of support per game this year.

It was the Cubs’ sixth loss in seven games, and they’ve managed just four hits in four of those losses and five in the other two, including Saturday.

Braves left fielder Justin Upton, who had a single in the fourth inning, had to leave in the sixth after being hit by a pitch from Samardzija. He was listed as day-to-day with a lower-back muscle contusion.

Rain began falling in the first inning and intensified in the second before play was stopped before the third for 67 minutes.

Santana had thrown just 22 pitches before the interruption and Samardzija only 23, but both continued to baffle hitters once play resumed.

Samardzija had seven strikeouts through five innings and Santana had five as all except one batter fanned in the fifth.

Samardzija had a career-high 13 strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings in his only start against the Braves last season but allowed four runs in a loss.

Notes: RHP Jordan Walden (strained left hamstring) was put on the 15-day disabled list by the Braves and LHP Ian Thomas recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett to take his place in the bullpen. Walden, who had not pitched since last Sunday, will be eligible to come off the DL on May 20. … Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez put the pitcher eighth in the batting order for the fifth consecutive game. … The three-game series concludes today, with RHP Aaron Harang (3-3, 2.98 ERA) pitching for the Braves against RHP Edwin Jackson (2-2, 5.24 ERA). … The Braves swept a three-game home series from the Cubs last year and finished 5-1 overall.