It was a costly victory for the Chicago Cubs.

The NL Central leaders beat visiting Atlanta yesterday, 7-2, but lost star leadoff hitter Alfonso Soriano for up to 6 weeks with a broken left hand after he was hit by a pitch.

"A bad break for us, just an unfortunate thing," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "It's a shame, it really is. Things happen in baseball."

Soriano was hit by Atlanta starter Jeff Bennett in the second inning, left the game and went to a hospital for X-rays.

Soriano will be in a splint for 3 weeks, Cubs spokesman Peter Chase said.

Ryan Dempster (8-2) pitched a four-hitter and struck out 11 in his first complete game since Sept. 25, 2002, when he led Cincinnati over the Cubs.

Dempster, the closer-turned-starter, is now 8-0 this season at Wrigley Field. The Cubs improved to 28-8 at home this year.

Kosuke Fukudome hit a three-run homer in the first off spot starter Bennett (0-4). Pinch-hitter Corky Miller had a two-run homer for the Braves.

Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, who didn't start the last two games because of a small tear in his right quadriceps, went 1-for-3 and his average dropped a point to .419.

Bennett - normally reliever - made an emergency start after Jair Jurrjens twisted his ankle on the steps leading from the Braves clubhouse after Tuesday's loss.

In other games:

* At Denver, Garret Atkins slid home on Yorvit Torrealba's sacrifice fly in the ninth inning, giving Colorado a 1-0 win over San Francisco. Atkins was initially called out by plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth. But Culbreth saw that Giants catcher Bengie Molina had dropped the ball while making a swipe tag and ruled Atkins safe.

* At Cincinnati, Rick Ankiel, Jason LaRue and Ryan Ludwick homered, and Braden Looper (8-5) pitched a three-hitter for his first career shutout, leading St. Louis to a 10-0 win over the Reds.

* At San Diego, Randy Wolf (5-4) combined with two relievers on a five-hitter, and rookie Edgar Gonzalez and Khalil Greene each hit solo homers, leading the Padres to a 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

* At New York, Carlos Beltran hit a two-run homer with two outs in the 13th inning, and the Mets overcame another blown save by Billy Wagner to snap a five-game losing streak with a 5-3 victory over Arizona.

* At Houston, Corey Hart hit two of Milwaukee's season-high five home runs and the Brewers beat the Astros, 10-6.

* At Pittsburgh, Ryan Doumit homered for the third time in two games and Ian Snell (3-6) allowed only one run while pitching into the seventh inning, helping the Pirates beat Washington, 3-1.

Noteworthy

* Justin Kimball, the Florida Marlins fan who says he was the first to catch Ken Griffey Jr.'s 600th home-run ball, said he hopes it winds up in the Cincinnati slugger's possession. Kimball, 25, also wants a Miami-Dade court to prevent the fan who the Marlins say caught the ball on Monday night - a season-ticketholder identified only as "Joe" - from selling it until the ownership issue can be resolved.

Kimball said he caught Griffey's historic home run in a wool cap, only to have it ripped from his hands by someone else in the rightfield seats. Video does not seem to support that story, and footage shows the ball landing in the glove of the man identified as "Joe."

* St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols is expected to miss at least 3 weeks with a strained left calf. He injured the calf running out a grounder during Tuesday's win at Cincinnati. The Cardinals also put righthander Adam Wainwright (middle-finger sprain) on the 15-day disabled list.

* Tom Glavine (left elbow strain) went on the 15-day disabled list for just the second time in his 22-year career - and second time this season. *