GGotta Make ‘Em Earn It – Cubs 5, Braves 9

Game One Hundred Fifty-Four – Cubs 5, Braves 9

WP – David Carpenter (4-1) LP – Kevin Gregg (2-5) Save – None

The Cubs fought back from a 5-1 deficit in the fourth inning and tied the game at five in the seventh when Dioner Navarro launched a solo home run onto Waveland Avenue. But an unhappy Kevin Gregg could not throw strikes in the ninth. Gregg gave up four runs on three hits and the Cubs dropped the opener of the weekend series to the Braves on Friday afternoon.

The Cubs pitching staff was pretty brutal on Friday and gave the game to the Braves. Cubs’ pitching issued eight walks, four of the free passes scored, hit two batters, served up two home runs and six of the Braves eight hits went for extra bases, including a RBI double by Paul Maholm. The Cubs only struck out seven of the free swinging Braves and it took seven different pitchers to reach the low total.

Scott Baker simply did what a pitcher cannot do on a day in which the wind is blowing out at Wrigley Field, walk batters. After serving up a solo shot to Chris Johnson in the second, Baker issued back-to-back walks with one out in the third then Freddie Freeman cleared the bases with a three-run jack. Scott Baker made it through just four innings in his last start of the season and allowed five runs on four hits with three walks and one strikeout on 70 pitches, 47 for strikes.

Dale Sveum used six pitchers after Baker before handing the ball to Gregg in the ninth. And while it was neither pretty nor efficient, Zac Rosscup (22 pitches, nine strikes), Hector Rondon (13 pitches, eight strikes), Justin Grimm (11 pitches, seven strikes), Brooks Raley (two pitches), Blake Parker (nine pitches, five strikes) and Pedro Strop (eight pitches, six strikes) did their jobs and kept the Braves off the board.

A disgruntled Kevin Gregg took the mound in the ninth with the game tied at five and surrendered four runs on three hits and three walks before he could record three outs. Gregg threw 37 pitches, 17 for strikes, in one inning.

It is not too often a pitching staff gives up nine runs on only eight hits, but the Cubs found a way on Friday.

The Cubs’ offense outhit the Braves 11-8 and followed up their three home run performance in Milwaukee on Thursday afternoon, with a three homer game at Wrigley on Friday afternoon.

Starlin Castro (1-for-5 with a home run and two runs scored) cut the Braves lead to 5-2 in the fifth with his 10th longball of the season. Donnie Murphy (1-for-4 with a home run) took Maholm deep in the sixth and made it a two-run game with his 11th of the year. After Luis Valbuena (1-for-1 with a RBI) check-swing singled in Junior Lake (2-for-4 with a double and a run score) and made it a one-run game in the sixth. Dioner Navarro (1-for-4 with a home run) crushed his 13th longball of the season in the seventh that tied the game at five.

Anthony Rizzo (2-for-4 with a RBI) stayed hot and delivered a two-out run scoring single in the third that plated Starlin Castro with the Cubs’ first run.

With Friday’s loss, the Cubs dropped to 64-90 on the season with eight games left to play.

Scott Baker made quick work of the Braves in the first inning (15 pitches, 12 for strikes) and Anthony Rizzo collected his first hit of the game in the bottom of the first. But Maholm retired Navarro on a grounder to short for the third out to end the inning.

Baker retired Gattis (flyout to right) and McCann (deep fly to right center) for the first two outs in the second. Chris Johnson followed and launched a 0-1 pitch into the bleachers in left center. Johnson has always hit Cubs’ pitching rather well and his 11th home run of the season put the Braves up 1-0. Baker then walked Dan Uggla but was able to retire Andrelton Simmons on a pop out to center to end the inning. Baker threw 35 pitches, 25 for strikes, over the first two innings.

After the Cubs did nothing in the second, Baker retired Maholm on a grounder to Barney to start the third. Baker then issued back-to-back walks to Jason Heyward and Justin Upton. Freddie Freeman got all of Baker’s 1-0 offering and deposited the ball over the wall in center … and just like that, the Braves took a 4-0 lead. Baker retired Gattis and McCann to end the inning … 57 pitches for Baker after three innings, 36 for strikes.

The Cubs got on the board in the third, but it should have been more. Ryan Sweeney reached on an infield single to short. Baker bunted him to second but for some reason, Sweeney tried to advance to third on a grounder to short off the bat of Starlin Castro. Simmons threw him out. With Castro at first and two down, Darwin Barney singled to center. Anthony Rizzo followed with a single to right, Castro scored. Navarro grounded out to second to end the inning. The Cubs trailed 4-1 after three innings.

Chris Johnson led off the fourth with a double to right. Uggla flied out to center and Simmons flied out to right. It appeared that Baker would get out of the inning without allowing any further damage. But Paul Maholm drove a 1-1 pitch into right for a double. Johnson scored, 5-1 Braves. Heyward flied out to left to end the inning.

The game went to the fifth with the Braves up by four runs after the Cubs failed to capitalize in the fourth after putting two on with one out. Maholm retired Sweeney and pinch-hitter Brian Bogusevic to end the inning.

Zac Rosscup wiggled his way out of a mess in the fifth. Rosscup issued a leadoff walk to Justin Upton. After retiring Freeman on a pop out to Castro near the mound, Evan Gattis ripped a double into left. With runners on second and third with one out, Brian McCann popped out to Castro in shallow left. Rosscup intentionally walked Johnson and loaded the bases with two down. Dan Uggla worked a full count before Rosscup struck him out swinging to end the inning.

Starlin Castro led off the fifth and pulled Maholm’s first pitch of the inning into the bleachers in left center … 5-2 Braves. Maholm retired Barney, Rizzo and Navarro in order to end the inning.

Hector Rondon retired all three batters he faced in the sixth and Donnie Murphy led off the Cubs’ sixth with a home run to left. Murphy’s 11th longball of the season cut the Braves lead to 5-3. Junior Lake followed with a double to left. Maholm retired McDonald on a grounder to third and Fredi Gonzalez went to his pen for lefty Scott Downs. Sweeney just missed a home run to right. Upton caught the ball, Lake tagged and moved up ninety feet. Luis Valbuena hit for Rondon and tried to check his swing on a 3-1 pitch from Downs. The ball trickled into left, Lake scored, 5-4 Braves. Gonzalez went back to his pen for Luis Ayala and Castro struck out swinging to end the inning.

The Cubs trailed 5-4 after six innings.

Justin Grimm, Brooks Raley and Blake Parker kept the Braves from tacking on in the seventh.

Luis Ayala stayed in for the seventh and retired Barney on a flyout to center. Gonzalez went to his pen for lefty Luis Avilan. Rizzo flied out to deep left (3-0 pitch) for the second out. Avilan fell behind Navarro 3-1. Dioner Navarro hit a rocket onto Waveland and tied the game at five. Murphy grounded out to short for the third out.

Blake Parker and Pedro Strop retired all three batters they faced in the eighth but David Carpenter set down the Cubs in order in the eighth as well and the game went to the ninth all tied at five.

Kevin Gregg issued a leadoff walk to Jordan Schafer in the ninth and fell behind Justin Upton 2-1. Gonzalez started Schafer from first on the 2-1 pitch. Upton grounded out to short, but Castro had only one play and the go ahead run was in scoring position. Gregg intentionally walked Freeman and put runners on first and second with one out. Evan Gattis followed and hit a deep fly to right. McDonald caught the ball but Schafer tagged and advanced to third.

Brian McCann lined a 1-2 pitch over a leaping Darwin Barney, Schafer trotted in and the Braves took a 6-5 lead. Chris Johnson followed with a bloop single to right that plated Freeman, 7-5 Braves. Uggla walked after just missing a three-run homer down the left field line. With the bases juiced and two outs, Andrelton Simmons drove a 2-1 pitch into the alley in left center. McCann and Johnson scored, 9-5 Braves. Gregg struck out pinch-hitter B.J. Upton to finally end the inning.

Craig Kimbrel gave up a leadoff single to Nate Schierholtz in the ninth but Castro rapped into a 4-6-3 double play and Barney flied out to left to end the game.

Travis Wood faces Kris Medlen on Saturday afternoon.

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