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Cubs edge Braves in a close battle

    ATLANTA — There was no need for Lou Piniella to kick up any dust. Rich Hill and the Chicago Cubs kept their manager happy in his return from a four-game suspension.

    Hill matched his career high with 11 strikeouts, giving up three hits in eight innings Thursday night to lead the Cubs over the Atlanta Braves 2-1.

    Chicago won for the fourth time in five games, a streak that began a day after Piniella’s theatrical argument during Saturday’s game against Atlanta at Wrigley Field, which led to his ejection and suspension.

    Chicago began a seven-game trip by winning two of three at Milwaukee. Piniella had watched his team from the press-box level while serving his penalty.

    ‘‘I’m ready to go,’’ Piniella said before the game. ‘‘It’s a little nerve-racking up there when you’re a fan.’’

    Hill (5-4), who walked one, matched his strikeout high, set against Pittsburgh last Sept. 6. He beat the Braves for the second time this season and improved to 3-0 in his career against Atlanta.

    Ryan Dempster pitched a perfect ninth for his 12th save in 13 tries.

    Chuck James (5-5) gave up two runs, six hits and three walks for the Braves, who have lost three straight and five of six.

    Andruw Jones led off the second inning with his 10th homer, a fly ball that barely cleared the right-field wall near the foul pole, and was stranded at third base after his fourth-inning single. Atlanta’s only other hit off Hill was a two-out single in the seventh by Matt Diaz.

    Alfonso Soriano led off the game with a triple over Jeff Francoeur at the right-field wall and scored when Felix Pie’s grounder bounced off James’ leg into left field for an RBI single.

    Chicago took a 2-0 lead in the second when Ryan Theriot beat out an infield hit, moved to third on a hit-and-run single by Cesar Izturis, and scored on Soriano’s two-out single..

Notes: Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who failed in his bid to buy the Braves, sat beside team president Terry McGuirk. ... Jones was 0-for-8 against Hill before his two hits Thursday night. ... Though he says it is too early to know if he’ll be able to make his scheduled start on Sunday, John Smoltz said his ailing right shoulder was ‘‘doing really good’’ on Thursday. Smoltz said his status for Sunday’s home game against Chicago won’t be determined before he throws in the bullpen on Saturday.

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