Kevin Hart overcame control problems to pitch an effective five innings in his first Major League start Wednesday, but fell victim to a problem that has plagued Cubs pitchers all year: a lack of run support.
Hart (0-1) gave up five walks, one intentional, and four hits, but allowed just one run. Yet the Cubs' offense stalled again, and Chicago suffered a 4-1 loss to the Braves for the second successive game.
The previous night, the Cubs had concluded the first half of their schedule with a 4.16 runs-per-game average -- more than a run lower than their 2008 mark. In the first game of the second half, Kenshin Kawakami (5-6) held them to one run in six innings.
With the Cubs trailing 2-0 in the sixth, Kawakami's former Chunichi Dragons teammate Kosuke Fukudome cracked his seventh homer to account for his team's lone run. The Braves' bullpen shut out the Cubs the rest of the way.
Koyie Hill led off the eighth with a single off Mike Gonzalez and moved to second on a sacrifice. But shortstop Yunel Escobar snared Fukudome's liner, and Ryan Theriot grounded out to end the inning.
Hart never retired the side in order, but worked his way out of trouble in every inning except the third, when the Braves staged a two-out rally. With the bases empty, Nate McLouth doubled and came around to score when Martin Prado singled to left and the ball skipped under Jake Fox's glove.
The Braves tacked on what proved to be the deciding run in the sixth, when Casey Kotchman led off with a home run against reliever Angel Guzman, and added two runs in the ninth.