Samardzija shines but Braves blank Cubs

ATLANTA – Another standout performance by Jeff Samardzija.

Another zero in his win column.

Samardzija pitched two-hit ball for six scoreless innings but his long wait for a win continued as the Cubs were shut out by Ervin Santana and the Atlanta Braves, 2-0, on Saturday night.

Samardzija had seven strikeouts and walked only one batter. He lowered his ERA to 1.45, second in the NL, but he is still without a win this season.

His winless streak was extended to 14 starts. His last victory came on Aug. 24, 2013, at San Diego.

He insisted the long drought wasn't wearing on him.

"No. I understand the situation, I understand how things go," Samardzija said. "Baseball is a funny sport. It's just one of those things where you learn from it. It usually comes around in the end and it all evens out."

Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Samardzija is winning in other ways.

"He's going out every single day and showing you that he's not thinking of anything other than giving you a really good performance," Renteria said. "So my solace is in the fact that this guy's being the ultimate professional in attacking what he's supposed to do.

"As far as not coming out with victories, I think that every time he goes out there, he may not have a victory at the end of the day in that column but he's accumulating victories," Renteria added. "Many victories. In many different ways. And I think that goes a long ways with his teammates."

Samardzija and Santana had to wait out a rain delay in the third inning that lasted 1 hour, 7 minutes.

Santana (4-0) allowed five hits in seven innings. He walked one and struck out seven.

Braves left fielder Justin Upton left the game in the sixth with a lower back muscle bruise after being hit by a pitch from Samardzija. He is day to day.

Braves closer Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 10th save.

Kimbrel, who blew a 2-1 lead in the ninth in the Braves' 3-2 win in 10 innings on Friday night, was back in form. He walked Starlin Castro with two outs before striking out Luis Valbuena to end the game.

The Braves scored two runs in the seventh off right-hander Brian Schlitter (2-1). Following singles by Chris Johnson and Andrelton Simmons, Ryan Doumit pinch hit for Santana and drove in Johnson with his double. Simmons scored on Tyler Pastornicky's suicide squeeze bunt.

Upton had another injury scare in the fourth inning. He appeared to hurt his lower back when he tagged Anthony Rizzo at the end of a long run-down between first and second. Upton ran in from the outfield to help on the play. Rizzo collided with Upton, who then bent over and reached for his lower back but remained in the game.

The run-down play helped keep the Cubs from scoring following a leadoff single by Ryan Kalish. As Kalish advanced to third on Rizzo's single, the throw from right fielder Jason Heyward was headed toward third base and Rizzo tried to advance to second. Simmons cut off Heyward's throw, starting the run-down play.

Kalish was stranded on third base as Castro hit a fly to shallow right field, Valbuena walked and Wellington Castillo struck out.

The Cubs also left a runner at third base in the second inning. Castro led off the inning with a double but Santana retired the next three batters.

"We had a couple of opportunities that we could have taken advantage of but we didn't," Renteria said.

NOTES: The Cubs have lost six of seven. ... The Braves are 12-0 when scoring the first run in a game. ... Gonzalez said LHP Jonny Venters, recovering from his second Tommy John surgery, will report to the team's minor league complex in Orlando and will begin throwing batting practice on Friday. ... The series ends on Sunday with Atlanta's Aaron Harang facing Chicago's Edwin Jackson in a matchup of right-handers.