The Atlanta Braves (29-57) got a two out, two-run home run off of Jason Hammel (7-5, 3.46 ERA) in the top of the first inning from Nick Markakis to take an early 2-0 lead over the Chicago Cubs (52-33). Lucas Harrell, the Braves’ starting pitcher that sports a lifetime 4.72 ERA, pitched the game of his life. He shut down the Cubs and held them to four hits through seven scoreless innings.
It was in the eighth inning that the Cubs luck began to change. After Harrell retired the first two men, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo both got hit by a pitch. Between the two reaching base, Harrell was removed from the game after throwing 113 pitches. Ben Zobrist came up next and slapped an RBI double down the first base line, bringing the Cubs to within one run.
Willson Contreras then came to the plate with a yet another chance to be the hero. And hero he did. He lined a go-ahead two-run triple – the first triple of his short major league career – that bounded past the Braves’ center fielder.
The Cubs were up 3-2 heading into the ninth inning. Hector Rondon was brought in the game and proceeded to toss a 3-2, no out meatball right down the middle of the plate to Nick Markakis, who promptly deposited the ball in the right field bleachers for his second home run of the night, tying up the game and sending it into extra innings.
In the 11th inning, a Tyler Flowers single off Cubs pitcher Spencer Patton drove in the go-ahead run for the Braves. The Cubs led off the bottom of the 11th with back-to-back singles by Willson Contreras and Jason Heyward. Two on, no out and things were looking up. That was until Addison Russell hit into a double play and Jeimer Candelario flew out to end the game.
The Cubs drop a tough one and lose by the score of 4-3 (Box Score).
Stats that mattered
- Jason Hammel made one mistake and was pitching a great game before being removed in the sixth with a cramp in his right hand (really??) – 5.0IP, 2R, 3H, 1BB, 6Ks, 1HR
- The bullpen hath failed again – 6.0IP, 2R, 3H, 2BB, 7Ks
- Contreras is so damn good – 3-for-5, 2RBIs, 3B
- La Stella batting lead off was not a good experiment – 0-for-3
- Cubs were 2-for-9 with RISP and left 8 men on base
A loss for words. That’s what it’s come to. To imagine the Cubs started out SO HOT that there was mumbling and outright statements made about how they could possibly be the best ever. That feels like a different season. But it’s not. Things have really taken a nose dive and it’s not very easy to see why.
Theo Epstein was asked about the Cubs’ hot start this past May and this was his response,
“We know we’re in a stretch right now where winning seems far easier than it actually is, and we know there’s going to be a stretch – probably a long stretch – this year where winning even one game seems virtually impossible. That’s just the nature of baseball.”
Let that settle in. Because right now, the Cubs are in that stretch. And while it sucks, to me, there is one tiny little thread of goodness in all of it. Theo Epstein saw it coming. The guy in charge of this team straight up called it. That’s reassuring to know that he’s not surprised by this and neither is Joe Maddon.
This Cubs team is still exceptional and they are still going to reach incredible heights but you didn’t expect it to come so easily, did you? Now, now, as Cubs fans we know better. You have to wallow in doubt a little to enjoy the crescendo. That’s the beauty of sports, that’s the beauty of baseball.
No time to sulk, the Pirates are eagerly awaiting the Cubs, licking their chops to get a piece of the team that has utterly dismantled them this year by winning 8-of-9 games by a total score of 58-21. I’d love nothing more than to see the Cubs sweep this series but their luck has got to change. Game time at PNC Park is 6:05 PM CDT with Jake Arrieta (12-3, 2.33 ERA) pitching for the Cubs.