Game One Hundred Thirty-One – Cubs 3 Braves 8
WP – Brandon Beachy (7-2) LP – Matt Garza (6-10) Save – None
Most of the Cubs deficiencies were on display during the four-game series against the Braves. Q’s Cubs lost three of four to Atlanta and finished with a 3-4 record in the season series against one of the best in the National League.
Four Cubs errors (a Major League leading 108 charged miscues on the season) led to four unearned runs on Thursday afternoon … add in a bad game from Matt Garza as well as the Cubs inability to hit with runners in scoring position (0-for-6 with RISP, five left on base Thursday; 4-for-42 with RISP in the series, 37 runners left on base) and it all equals another ugly Cubs loss.
Matt Garza did not have it on Thursday and he let his seventh charged error of the season (worst among NL pitchers) in the first inning affect his entire outing. Garza barely survived a 38-pitch third inning and lasted just five innings. Garza spent a majority of his short outing battling with his command … and his emotions.
Matt Garza ended up being charged with six runs, three earned, on eight hits with two walks and six strikeouts in a rare bad outing at Wrigley. Garza threw 98 pitches, 67 for strikes.
Brian McCann (2-for-4, with two home runs, a walk and four RBI) and Michael Bourn (4-for-5 with two runs scored and a RBI) led the way for the Braves. Cubs pitching held McCann hitless over the first three games (0-for-11) but he made up for it in a big way on Thursday. McCann hit a pair of home runs on a day the wind was blowing in at Wrigley. McCann hit a three-run bomb off Garza in the first and added an opposite field solo shot off John Grabow in the seventh.
Quade’s pen, outside of John Grabow, did its job again on Thursday but the offense once again could not string together any hits against Braves’ pitching.
The Cubs managed seven hits but not a single walk (second game in the series the Cubs did not register a free pass). Carlos Pena (2-for-4 with a stolen base), Marlon Byrd (1-for-4 with a home run), Starlin Castro (1-for-4 with a run scored and a stolen base) and Tyler Colvin (1-for-4 with a triple and a run scored) led the offense and helped tie the game in the second inning. Darwin Barney and Geovany Soto (hitless in the series) each drove in runs on fielder’s choice ground outs.
Aramis Ramirez (1-for-4 with a double) extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a double in the eighth … Ramirez’s eighth inning double was the 700th extra basehit of his career.
Matt Garza (7), Starlin Castro (22), Reed Johnson (2) and Darwin Barney (10) were the four Cubs that added to their error total … and led to the four unearned runs.
With Thursday’s loss, the Cubs slipped back to 17 games under .500 with a 57-74 record … Matt Garza let a bloop, an error and bomb get under his skin in the first inning. And the question quickly became, how long will Matt Garza be able to last in the finale against the Braves?
Michael Bourn led off the game with a bloop single to left just over Starlin Castro. Martin Prado reached on the Cubs first error of the game. Prado hit a grounder past a diving Carlos Pena that was fielded by Darwin Barney. Barney threw to Garza covering first but he dropped the ball. Garza was busy looking for the bag.
Garza fell behind Brian McCann 2-0 before serving one up. McCann gave the Braves a 3-0 lead with one big swing of the bat (21st homer of the season). Garza settled down and struck out Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman before retiring Alex Gonzalez on a pop out to second to end the inning.
Starlin Castro reached on a blooper to shallow right that Dan Uggla could not hang on to. Castro stole second on a 2-1 pitch to Darwin Barney and advanced to third when Alex Gonzalez could not handle the throw from McCann. Barney grounded out to short and plated Castro with the Cubs first run … 3-1 Braves. Ramirez flied out to left center to end the inning.
The Braves did nothing against Matt Garza in the second.
Marlon Byrd ripped a 2-1 pitch with one out in the second into the bleachers in left. Byrd’s seventh homer of the season cut the Braves lead to 3-2. Tyler Colvin followed Byrd’s longball with a triple into the right field corner.
With the infield in and one out, Geovany Soto hit a q-shot to first. Colvin scored and tied the game at three. Garza struck out swinging to end the inning.
The Cub fought back and tied the game, but the good feelings would soon be gone.
Michael Bourn led off the third with a single to right center. Martin Prado hit a ball back up the middle that Castro misplayed into an error. Castro appeared to be focused on turning two instead of making sure of one. Castro’s 22nd error opened up another long inning for Matt Garza.
Following the Castro error, Garza issued back-to-back walks to Brian McCann and Dan Uggla. Uggla showed a lot of patience and his bases loaded free pass that forced in Michael Bourn ended up being the winning run.
With the bases loaded and no outs, Freddie Freeman singled to right and plated Prado with the Braves’ fifth run. McCann was held at third with no outs.
Garza retired Alex Gonzalez on a pop out to shallow center. McCann could not tag and try to score. Garza reached back and struck out Jason Heyward … and retired Jose Constanza on a groundout to short. Garza allowed two runs … and it could have been a lot more. Garza threw 38 pitches in third and after three, Garza’s pitch count stood at 67 pitches, 45 strikes.
The top of Q’s order did nothing against Brandon Beachy in the third.
The Braves kept hitting against Garza in the fourth. Bourn reached on another single to left with one out … but Soto threw him out at second to the second out of the inning. Martin Prado followed with a double but was stranded when Darwin Barney threw out McCann at first from his knees following an excellent diving stop on a ball ticketed for centerfield.
Carlos Pena reached on his second bunt single (third base) in as many games to start the fourth. Pena took off for second on a 3-2 pitch to Reed Johnson. Johnson struck out swinging but Pena swiped his first bag of the season.
Marlon Byrd popped up the first pitch (second base) and Colvin struck out swinging to end the inning.
Dan Uggla led off the fifth with a long single off the brick wall to start the fifth. Byrd made a solid play to keep Uggla from advancing to second. Freddie Freeman ripped a single to left that rolled up Johnson’s arm and allowed Uggla to advance to third (error number three). Garza struck out Gonzalez for the first out.
With runners on first and third with one out, Jason Heyward hit a 1-2 pitch out to left. Uggla tagged and scored … 6-3 Braves. Garza retired Constanza (fly out to left center) on his 98th pitch of the game to end the fifth.
Brandon Beachy retired the Cubs in order in the bottom of the fifth.
Other than a two-out walk to Martin Prado in the sixth, John Grabow was solid in his first inning of work.
After two quick outs for Beachy to start the sixth (Barney groundout to short; Ramirez groundout to third), Carlos Pena singled to right in the shift. The ball went past a diving Freddie Freeman and Uggla could not throw out Pena. Reed Johnson singled to right. Pena advanced to third but was stranded when Byrd popped out to second (0-1 pitch) to end the inning.
At the end of six, the Braves had a 6-3 lead.
Brian McCann led off the seventh with his second homer of the game. A shot to left on a 0-2 pitch from Grabow. Uggla struck out swinging and Pena took away an extra basehit from Freddie Freeman. Pena dove across the line and snagged a ball that appeared to be on hit way to the right field corner. Gonzalez grounded out to short to end the inning.
The Cubs did nothing against Arodys Vizcaino in the seventh.
The Braves scored their eighth and final run off James Russell (and the Cubs defense) in the eighth.
Heyward lined out to left to begin the inning but Jose Constanza reached on an error by Darwin Barney. Brooks Conrad hit for Vizcaino and singled to left on a 2-2 pitch. Michael Bourn then ripped a 0-2 pitch into left, Constanza scored … 8-3 Braves.
With runners on first and second with one out, Prado flied out to right center (0-1 pitch) and McCann flied out to center to end the inning.
Other than a two-out double by Aramis Ramirez, the Cubs did nothing against Eric O’Flaherty in the eighth.
Jeff Samardzija faced the minimum in the ninth after he hit Freddie Freeman with one out and Alex Gonzalez hit a grounder to Castro … 6-3 inning ending double play.
Cristhian Martinez hit Reed Johnson to start the bottom of the ninth. Byrd hit a grounder to third. Prado threw to Uggla to force Johnson, Byrd took over at first. Colvin grounded into a 4-6 fielder’s choice and Soto looked at strike three to end the game.
Just a sloppy, ugly game for the Chicago Cubs. As Mike Quade said as he ended his post-game press conference, “See you in Milwaukee.”
The Cubs begin a six-game road trip on Friday night in Milwaukee. Rodrigo Lopez against Randy Wolf in game one.