Tuesday night's game saw the Cubs get just about every bounce and call their way in order to pull off an improbable win. Braves fans are some of my least favorite in baseball, so it was fun to see them get riled up. These are the people that hung signs in the 80s that said "Go Braves, and take the Falcons with you!" Okay, that's actually pretty funny. Still, they are notorious bandwagon fans (is there any fan base that isn't accused of this?) that were so spoiled in the 90s, they hardly supported a merely good team in the early aughts.
It would have been nice for the Cubs to come into Wednesday night's game and just take it to them.
Tyler Chatwood was on the mound - he had walked at least five batters in five of his first seven starts on the season. It was somewhat of a shock, then, when his first pitch of the game was straight down the middle of the plate...and absolutely drilled to right-center field by Ozzie Albies for a lead-off double. A Ronald Acuña ground-out later, Freddie Freeman drove in Albies for a 1-0 lead.
To his credit, Chatwood came back, getting Nick Markakis to ground in to an inning-ending double play. In fact, Chatwood had one of his strongest outings as a Cub tonight. He was able to control his stuff much better, and only ended up walking two on the evening. He drew a mix of ground balls and fly outs, and while he occasionally gave up some hard contact, the dam never broke. He was challenged in the fourth inning, when Tyler Flowers (this guy again) doubled with two outs and a runner on. However, the ball hit the foul-line fence and took a fortuitous bounce for the Cubs. Kyle Schwarber was able to pick the ball up relatively quickly and hold Markakis at third base. Perhaps we'll start to see fewer teams run on Kyle's arm. Luckily, Chatwood was able to induce a weak fly ball by Ender Inciarte to end the inning.
In the meantime, the Cubs had a few chances that they were unable to capitalize. In the first inning, Kris Bryant was stranded on second base after a one-out double. Javy Báez led off the second inning with a single, but would advance no further. In the third inning, Albert Almora Jr. got to second base, though it was with two outs, before the inning ended on an Anthony Rizzo line drive to Albies at second base. You know how lead-off walks always come back to haunt Cubs pitchers? Well, it didn't affect Brandon McCarthy when he walked Willson Contreras to start the fourth inning. Strike outs by Báez and Schwarber followed, and the inning ended with a routine fly-out to right field by Addison Russell.
Oh yeah - there was *one* Cubs highlight in that mix. In the second inning, Flowers smashed a long fly ball to center field that looked to be headed for at least extra bases. In perfect stride, Almora leaped, and used the wall to extend his glove hand to make a beautiful catch. I know that Chicago Now has gotten pretty...busy...with all sorts of ads and videos, but this one is worth a watch.
The Cubs did finally get to McCarthy in the fifth inning. Again, the lead-off batter reached base. This time it was Ian Happ, who singled sharply to left field. Chatwood bunted him to second base on a sacrifice for the first out. With two outs, after an Almora strike out, Kris Bryant came through with a base hit to tie the game. His line drive into left field fell just in front of the diving Acuña.
Chatwood made it through the fifth inning without incident, even enticing a second double play to end the inning. However, he was given a quick hook in the sixth inning after retiring one batter. With the dangerous Freeman due up, Joe Maddon came out to replace him, even though he'd only thrown 79 pitches on the evening. Chatwood was visibly upset by the decision, but Brian Duensing came out anyway. After walking Freeman, Duensing got Markakis to ground into his second double play of the game - a nice 3-6-1 effort to end the inning.
At this time, my two year-old has a few thoughts he'd like to share about Chatwood's early removal:
vv .,vvfdgbgb,m mhbm,h m bn n , nb
Very little happened in the seventh and eighth, save (of course) a wasted lead-off double by Russell in the seventh, and a lead-off single by Bryant in the eighth. Perhaps most infuriating is that Anthony Rizzo got ahead 3-0 against hard-throwing lefty A.J. Minter, but popped up to third base when given the green light. Man, I know that Joe gives his guys the benefit of the doubt, and it wasn't a bad pitch (at about the knees), but with the way Anthony's going over the last few days, I think I'd get him on base any way I can. Willson Contreras then hit an impossible eye-level fastball into center for a base hit to put runners at first and second to set up Javy and Schwarber to be heroes. Neither could get it done.
Wasn't it the eighth inning that was such a problem last year? Well, it happened again tonight. Carl Edwards Jr. has been mostly very good this season, but tonight...let's just say that I'm ready to be done seeing Albies and Acuña for a while after tomorrow's series finale. Albies led off with a double, then was singled home directly. Freeman bounced a single to the unoccupied left side of the infield, and Acuña smartly advanced to third, which was ultimately covered by CJ. Freeman advanced to second behind the play. At that point, the walks began; first with an intentional walk of Markakis, and then the unintentional, run-scoring variety by Flowers. Yuck.
Here's the toddler with his thoughts:
.n fhgm,m ,, gh.,.
All the while, that incessannt chant/song was going on - hence the Major League reference. It should have died out in the 90s, and yet, here we are.
Edwards was dispatched to the showers, and Justin Hancock was brought in to finish the inning...which included walking in another run.
This may not be so bad, I thought - we got to Arodys Vizcaino last night...
After a 1-2-3 9th, that was all she wrote.
Jon Lester will take the mound for the Cubs in the rubber match of the series. He will face Mike Soroka, a Canadian who apparently was not good enough to play hockey. Let's steal another win from Atlanta, and leave Ozzie and Ronnie behind, shall we?
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