CHICAGO -- Derrek Lee struggled in his first game with the Atlanta Braves and still had a good time.
This was exactly what the big first baseman expected when he joined the NL East leaders.
Rick Ankiel hit a bases-loaded triple off a wild Carlos Marmol with two out in the ninth inning, lifting Lee and the Braves to a 5-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Friday.
“You can see the difference with a winning team,” said Lee, who was dealt to Atlanta on Wednesday after nearly seven seasons with the Cubs. “When you’re playing well, you have the confidence.”
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Marmol entered with a 3-2 lead and walked three of the first four batters he faced. After Melky Cabrera struck out, Ankiel lined a 2-2 pitch into the right-field corner.
Atlanta leads the majors with 22 wins in its final at-bat and Ankiel, who arrived last month in a trade with Kansas City, was happy to finally do the honors. He entered the game with only three RBIs since joining the team.
“It’s almost like we get extra adrenaline -- whatever you want to call it -- when it comes to late in the game,” Ankiel said. “It’s a special feeling. It always feels like we’re never out of it, no matter what.”
Lee received a standing ovation before his first at-bat and went 0 for 4. He struck out, flied out and lined out against best buddy Ryan Dempster before striking out against Marmol for the first out of the ninth.
Dempster stepped off the mound in the first inning so Lee could enjoy the applause. He waved his helmet to the crowd before flying out on the first pitch, stranding a runner at third.
“I was happy to hear the crowd give him the ovation he deserved,” Dempster said. “I thought I respected him a lot, and then you really realize the respect you have for a guy like that. I’m excited for him. He’s going to a first-place team, playing with a great bunch of guys for a great manager. And he’s got a chance to go to the playoffs and win a World Series.”
The Cubs lost their eighth straight home game -- their longest skid in four years -- and fifth consecutive overall.
“A tough stretch,” said Dempster, who pitched eight strong innings but was denied his fourth straight victory. “Sometimes you find ways to lose instead of finding ways to win.”
Marmol (2-3) walked Martin Prado, Brian McCann and Alex Gonzalez before Ankiel’s hit.
It was his fifth blown save in 26 chances.
“You just can’t walk people with a lead,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. “We walk three of them, and that’s what cost us the ballgame.”
Billy Wagner retired three straight hitters after Darwin Barney’s leadoff single in the Chicago ninth, earning his 30th save and No. 415 for his career. He struck out two to move into a tie with Jesse Orosco for the most Ks by a left-handed reliever with 1,169.
Ankiel also made a nice catch in center field to rob Starlin Castro in the first and later threw out Koyie Hill trying to stretch a single into a double.
“I told our trainer before the game that he was going to have a great series,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. Of the team’s NL-high 37th comeback victory, he added: “We expect to do it. It’s happened so often. A different guy all the time. Amazing.”
Dempster allowed two runs and four hits, retiring the last nine batters he faced. He is 3-0 with a 1.65 ERA in four starts this month.
Peter Moylan (5-2) pitched a perfect eighth in relief of Jair Jurrjens, who gave up three runs and nine hits in seven innings for Atlanta.
Hill singled in a run in the second, but Atlanta tied it in the third on Omar Infante’s home run and grabbed a 2-1 lead on Gonzalez’s RBI double in the fourth -- the final hit allowed by Dempster.
Aramis Ramirez homered in the bottom half for the Cubs and doubled in Marlon Byrd in the sixth. Ramirez has 12 homers and 33 RBIs in his last 37 games after failing to produce in the first half of the season.
Notes: Cubs OF Tyler Colvin will play first base for the first time during next week’s series at Washington, Piniella said. The Cubs want to see if Colvin, who last played the position as a college sophomore, is a legitimate option at first for next season. Piniella said he wanted Colvin’s first games there to come on the road, away from the Chicago spotlight. … The Miller Lite sign located on a rooftop past right field usually features a statement that taunts the opposition. Friday, though, it paid tribute to Cox, who is retiring after the season: “BRAVO BOBBY! CHEERS TO 29 YEARS!”