Game One Hundred Twenty-One – Cubs 6 Braves 5
WP – John Grabow (3-0) LP – Eric O’Flaherty (1-4, BS 4) Save – Carlos Marmol (28)
Sunday was two games in one for Q’s Cubs. The first five innings the Cubs looked lifeless and committed more errors than the three they were charged … then the last four innings in which they scored all six runs and remembered not only how to hit the baseball but how to catch it and throw it as well.
The Cubs somehow found a way to win a game on the road in which they struck out 18 times, did not work a single walk and was charged with four errors.
Darwin Barney (3-for-5 with two runs scored) was the sparkplug Sunday for what looked like a very tired team early on. Barney appeared to wake up his teammates with a sensational diving catch to take away a hit from Dan Uggla in the fifth. Barney led off the Cubs’ four-run sixth inning with what seemed to be a harmless single to right at the time. Barney ended up scoring the Cubs first run of the game … and was on board for Carlos Pena’s two-run mammoth shot in the seventh that ended up being the difference in the game.
Carlos Pena (1-for-4 with a home run, a sac fly and three RBI) had a better day than his final line. Pena squared up two other balls Sunday that would have left just about any other park. Pena drove in three of the Cubs’ six runs and worked the count each time to the plate. Pena hit his team leading 23rd homer of the year in the seventh off a southpaw that had allowed only one longball all season.
Tyler Colvin (1-for-4 with two RBI) drove in two of the Cubs six runs with a single in the sixth. Like Pena, Colvin hit the ball better than his final line and is starting to look more comfortable at the plate.
Marlon Byrd (3-for-4 with a run scored) and Aramis Ramirez (3-for-5 with a run scored) also had good days at the plate. The Cubs pounded out 12 hits but only one for extra bases … Pena’s two-run homer in the seventh.
Matt Garza had a good but short outing after Quade had to pull him for a pinch-hitter in the sixth with the tying run on third base and two outs. Garza allowed four runs, two earned, on six hits with a walk and five strikeouts in five innings. Garza committed his sixth error of the season that accounted for one of the two unearned runs. Garza’s six errors are the most by any pitcher in the big leagues.
Outside of John Grabow, the Cubs pen did an excellent job. Grabow gave up an unearned run in the bottom of the sixth that gave the Braves the lead. Grabow committed the Cubs’ fourth charged error of the game that allowed Jason Heyward to score the go ahead run.
Jeff Samardzija (three up, three down), Sean Marshall (three up, three down) and Carlos Marmol (sat down three of four with a walk) did not allow a hit and only one baserunner over the last three innings.
The Cubs defense was horrible early on and was the difference late in the game. The Cubs were charged with four more errors, which led to three unearned runs in the first six innings. After the miscues on Sunday, the Cubs have now allowed a Major League worst 53 unearned runs this season. The Cubs made more mental and physical mistakes then they were charged with on Sunday before they finally woke up and started playing baseball.
Geovany Soto had a rough day. Not only was he 0-for-4 with three strikeouts at the plate, Soto was charged with one of the Cubs four errors and the Braves stole five bases.
Dan Uggla’s hitting streak ended Sunday at 33 games. Uggla finished the game 0-for-3 with a sac fly and a RBI.
With Sunday’s win (5-14 on Sundays in 2011), the Cubs posted their fourth straight series victory for the first time since September 2008 and improved to 53-68 on the season … 15 games below .500. The Cubs did a nice job of making Brandon Beachy work in the first inning. Starlin Castro (0-for-4, four strikeouts) put together a solid at bat that resulted with a swinging strikeout on the eighth pitch of the at bat. Darwin Barney singled to left on a 2-2 pitch but Aramis Ramirez lined out to center on the first pitch he saw. Pena struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning. Beachy threw 20 pitches in the first, 13 for strikes.
The Braves struck first on Sunday … with a little help from Matt Garza’s sixth error of the season.
Michael Bourn led off with a broken bat bloop single into right center. Garza got ahead of Martin Prado and was able to induce a tap back to the mound on a 1-2 pitch. Garza fielded the ball cleanly but threw the ball into right center … the ball had to have slipped because the throw was nowhere near Starlin Castro, the bag or Darwin Barney. Bourn ended up at third with no outs.
While it was very unlikely the Cubs could have turned two, even a decent throw from Garza would have resulted in an out.
Brian McCann struck out swinging on a high fastball for the first out of the inning.
Dan Uggla did not extend his hitting streak in the first inning but blooped a broken bat fly out into shallow left. Soriano caught the ball but could not get anything on his throw to the plate. Bourn tagged and scored standing with the game’s first run.
Garza struck out Freddie Freeman swinging on his 21st pitch (13 strikes) to end the inning.
The Cubs continued to make Beachy work in the second but managed only a leadoff single by Marlon Byrd.
Q’s horrible defense gave the Braves three extra outs in the bottom of the second. The Cubs were charged with only one error … but it should have been more.
Alex Gonzalez reached on an infield single to the hole at short with one down. Ramirez lunged at the ball, went down on a knee and stopped it from leaving the infield but the ball slipped out of his glove as he tried to make a play. Jose Constanza reached on an infield to short. Castro showed off his range and knocked down the ball.
Garza struck out Beachy looking but Bourn ripped a single into center. Gonzalez scored as Byrd threw the ball to third. The Cubs caught Constanza in between second and third. Ramirez ran him back toward the bag before throwing the ball and hitting Constanza in the back. The ball ended up in right center and Constanza took third.
With runners on first and third with two outs, Martin Prado hit a hard grounder toward third. Ramirez did not put himself into position to field the ball; it went off his glove and down the line. Constanza scored … 3-0 Braves on what should have been Ramirez’s second error of the inning.
Brian McCann fouled out to Soto behind the plate to end the inning.
The Cubs did nothing against Brandon Beachy in the third … and Garza retired the Braves in order in the bottom of the inning on 14 pitches.
Q’s offense put two runners on for the first time against Beachy in the fourth. Ramirez led off with a single to left. Carlos Pena flied out to deep right center on a 3-2 pitch … but Marlon Byrd singled to right. With runners on first and second with one out, Soriano struck out swinging and Jason Heyward made an excellent diving catch on low sinking liner in right that took away an extra basehit from Tyler Colvin to end the inning.
The Braves tacked on the bottom of the fourth … and ran all over Matt Garza and Geovany Soto. The Braves manufactured a run and swiped three bases in a half inning that Soto would like to forget. Garza issued a one-out walk to Constanza … and he stole second (fourth of the season) and third (fifth stolen base of the season) with Beachy at the plate. Constanza swiped third as Beachy swung and missed an 0-2 offering from Garza.
Michael Bourn broke his bat in half on a 2-0 pitch and got just enough to bloop a single into right center. Constanza scored … 4-0 Braves. With Martin Prado at the plate, Bourn stole second and advanced to third on a low throw from Soto that ended up in center. Prado flied out to center to end the inning.
The Cubs did nothing against Beachy in the fifth … and the Braves went down in order in the bottom of the inning. Garza retired the side on seven pitches with a little help from Darwin Barney. Barney made an excellent headlong diving catch on a ball off the bat of Dan Uggla in shallow right.
The Cubs woke up in the sixth and tied the game.
Darwin Barney led off the sixth with a single to right … the third time in six innings the Cubs put the leadoff hitter on. Ramirez followed and ripped Beachy’s first pitch into right center. Barney advanced to third with no outs.
Carlos Pena worked the count to 2-2 before launching Beachy’s next pitch to deep left. The ball looked like it would leave the park off the bat but for the third time in the series Pena flied out to the track. Barney tagged and scored the Cubs first run.
Fredi Gonzalez went to his pen and brought in Scott Linebrink to face Marlon Byrd.
Byrd ripped a 3-1 pitch back up the middle, Linebrink had to duck out of the way. Ramirez held at second and advanced to third on a single to left off Soriano’s bat.
Tyler Colvin stepped in with the bases loaded, one out and the Cubs down 4-1. Colvin singled to right on a 0-1 pitch. Ramirez and Byrd scored … and Soriano advanced to third. Gonzalez went back to his pen and brought in Arodys Vizcaino to face Geovany Soto with the Braves up 4-3 and runners on first and third with one out.
Geovany Soto looked at strike three. Quade went to his bench and sent up Blake DeWitt to hit for Matt Garza. Vizcaino uncorked a wild pitch on a 0-1 pitch to DeWitt. Soriano scampered in from third and scored the tying run without a slide … Colvin advanced to second on the play. DeWitt struck out swinging on a 2-2 pitch in the dirt. The ball got away from McCann and allowed DeWitt to reach first. With runners on first and third with two down, Castro struck out swinging to end the inning.
John Grabow took the hill in the bottom of the sixth with the game tied at four … and the Braves took the lead right back.
Jason Heyward led off the sixth with a line drive single into right center. Heyward stole second with Gonzalez at the plate. Gonzalez then tapped one back to Grabow (swinging bunt). Grabow barehanded the ball … and threw it into right field. Heyward scored and gave the Braves a 5-4 lead on the Cubs fourth error of the game, second by a pitcher. Tyler Colvin backed up the play and kept Gonzalez from advancing to second.
Constanza bunted Gonzalez to second but Grabow struck out pinch-hitter Brooks Conrad and retired Bourn on a pop out to Barney in shallow right.
At the end of six … the Braves had a 5-4 lead.
Darwin Barney led off the seventh with his third hit of the game, a single to center on a 0-2 pitch from Eric O’Flaherty. Ramirez popped out to short for the first out.
Carlos Pena stepped in against the southpaw and worked the count to 2-2. After fouling off the fifth pitch of the at bat, Pena launched O’Flaherty’s next offering well over the wall in right. Pena hit only the second ball out of the park against O’Flaherty this season. Pena’s fifth longball off a lefty this season and 23rd of the year gave the Cubs their first lead of the day.
Marlon Byrd grounded out to short for the second out of the seventh … and Soriano struck out swinging to end the inning. The last seven outs recorded by the Braves’ pen were all strikeouts … each one of the swinging variety.
The Braves did nothing against Jeff Samardzija in the bottom of the seventh.
Jonny Venters took the hill in the eighth and struck out the side … Colvin, Soto and Reed Johnson looked overmatched against the young lefty.
Sean Marshall retired the Braves in order in the bottom of the eighth with a lot of help from Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro. Barney took a hit away from Freddie Freeman with an excellent barehanded grab and throw on a high chopper off the plate. Not to be outdone by his double play partner, Starlin Castro showed off his range on a ball hit into the hole by pinch-hitter Chipper Jones.
Chipper Jones hit for Jason Heyward and ripped a grounder into the hole at short. Castro fielded the ball in the grass and made a strong Jeter-esque jump throw to nail Jones at first. Marshall struck out Gonzalez to end the inning.
Aramis Ramirez reached on a gift infield single with two outs in the ninth, the only ball put in play by the Cubs since Marlon Byrd grounded out to short for the second out in the seventh. Pena struck out swinging to end the top of the ninth.
Carlos Marmol retired Jose Constanza (flyout to left) and pinch-hitter Eric Hinske (ground out to first) to start the ninth. Michael Bourn worked a walk and swiped second (Braves’ fifth stolen base of the game) with Prado at the plate. Marin Prado fouled out to Aramis Ramirez on a 3-1 pitch to end the game.
The Cubs back-to-back wins against the Braves after what unfolded on Friday night was nice to see and in the process the Cubs won a series in Atlanta for the first time in three years (2008). Four series victories in a row for the first time since September 9 – September 21, 2008 …
The Cubs open a three-game series in Houston on Monday night … Rodrigo Lopez against Henry Sosa in game one.