Everybody love everybody -- Cubs 8, Braves 3

The Chicago Cubs remembered how to hit with runners in scoring position on Monday night versus the Atlanta Braves! The offense came, and stayed, alive and the bullpen did their job, for the most part, in the 8-3 victory.

Jon Lester worked a quick first on the mound for the Cubs. He got consecutive ground outs from Ronald Acuña Jr and Dansby Swanson, followed by a fly out from Freddie Freeman.

The Cubs weren't able to get on the board versus Braves starter Julio Teherán in the first. Kyle Schwarber led off with a ground out. Kris Bryant was hit by a pitch and Anthony Rizzo then walked, but Javier Báez grounded into a double play to end the inning.

Willson Contreras led off the second inning with his 16th home run of the season to put the Cubs on the board first at 1-0. Braves catcher Tyler Flowers took umbrage with something about the homer and he and Contreras had words after Contreras crossed home plate. Flowers then directed his ire at Rizzo as the benches and bullpens cleared, and both teams were issued warnings. On replay it appeared that Contreras may have said something to Flowers right after he hit the home run, but the exact exchange will remain a mystery.

After the short delay, Jason Heyward hit a ground-rule double and David Bote followed with a walk. Carlos González grounded into a double play and Jon Lester flew out though to end the inning.

Báez singled in the lead off spot in the fourth and went on to steal second with Contreras at bat. Contreras hit a single, scoring Báez, and putting the Cubs ahead 2-0

The Cubs really piled on runs in the fifth inning. González led off with a walk and Lester followed with a single. Schwarber hit a ground-rule double, scoring González. Bryant and Rizzo each singled, and Báez doubled. With the score now at 6-0 in favor of the Cubs, Chad Sobotka was brought in to pitch in relief of Teherán. Contreras grounded out but scored Rizzo and the Cubs would end the inning winning 7-0.

The Braves broke the shutout in the sixth inning. Acuña singled to lead off, followed by a fielder's choice from Swanson. Bote missed a catch at second and Acuña advanced to third on the error. After a strikeout from Freeman and a pop out from Josh Donaldson, Nick Markakis singled to center, scoring Acuña and Swanson. The inning ended with the score at 7-2.

Daniel Descalso pinch hit in Lester's spot in the bottom of the sixth and grounded out. González had previously struck out for the first out, and the third out was recorded on a fly out from Schwarber.

The Cubs put Brandon Kintzler in to pitch in the seventh. He faced Ozzie Albies first, who singled to right. Flowers then grounded out to second. Pinch-hitter Matt Joyce stuck out swinging, as did Acuña for the third out.

Bryant struck out swinging against new Braves pitcher Touki Toussaint to lead off the bottom of the seventh. Rizzo also struck out, and Báez grounded out back to Toussaint.

Pitcher Tony Barnette made his Cubs debut in the eighth and probably didn't get the result he wanted from the first batter he faced. Swanson led off with a home run to right field and the Braves were now trailing 7-3. After a single from Freeman and a fly out from Donaldson, Barnette was pulled in favor of Kyle Ryan. Ryan got Markakis to ground into a double play to end the inning.

Heyward hit his 11th home run of the season in the eighth to put the Cubs up 8-3.

Heyward moved from center field to right in the ninth, Albert Almora Jr entered the game in center, Addison Russell took over at second for Bote, and Steve Cishek pitched for the Cubs. He got Austin Riley to strike out swinging, followed by a fly out from Albies. Flowers, fittingly, struck out looking to end the game.

 

WPA CHART


Source: FanGraphs

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    D, that’s the quickest recap I’ve seen in a long time!
    The battery gets to eat tonigh.
    Jon and Willson, your table is ready.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Thanks Jonathan! I try to write them as the game is happening so I can publish shortly after the final out.

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    I’m very impressed with the players who’s first language isn’t English giving interviews in English. I know the Cubs have classes in English in the DR, but what about the minors here or even on the major league level. I’ve learned 2 languages as an adult and it’s not easy, and I’m sure my grammar wasn’t very good. So I don’t know if the Cubs or the players are doing more for themselves but congratulations to them.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Totally agree. I'm trying to brush up on my Spanish and it's tough! I can't imagine facing the media in a language that isn't your native language, especially since things can be taken out of context so easily. Kudos to those players.

  • In reply to dhsauers:

    I'm still trying to brush up on my English.

  • Last night was fun, it seemed like it had been a while even if we had experienced a few good games recently, sometimes those felt like we were holding our breath and waiting more for something to go wrong than something to go right. This season has been a bit challenging because we've looked great at times and mediocre at others but do you what this team hasn't been? Bad. Sure it feels like they're bad but a reality check shows that when we feel that way we're simply watching mediocrity. That doesn't make it GREAT but it should help us put things in perspective. I mean as Cubs fans we know bad. In 2010 our boys were 34-44 at this point, in 2006 29-49, in 2001 32-46. Even in the nearly magical 2003 season they were 41-37. Today they sit at 43-35 for a .551 winning percentage. That's not bad, it may not be world beating, but it's no cause for anger. Now, one thing I hear from folks is that expectations are higher now. Sure they are, you can argue that on the merits on whether that makes sense, but it is certainly the case. The thing is should we be making judgements on those expectations after 78 games? How abut after 100? Shouldn't our judgments come after 162?

    Look I'm not judging anyone here, I've felt some of these same feelings myself especially as I watch a seeming lack of emotion during tough losses. Sometimes I feel that, outside of Javy, that the team takes on the temperament of Kyle Hendricks and it makes me crazy. You know what though, we don't know what they're feeling. We don't know what they are saying amongst themselves or how they are trying to improve. They're pros and we should probably give them at least some benefit of the doubt. It's not easy, but we probably should.

    Another thing that's happened a lot is the "what if" game. What if Theo had done this, or done that or not done another thing. It's not like there are perfect GM/chief baseball ops guys out there. Everyone makes mistakes. The fact is that we are in year five of watching winning baseball during the season. When was the last time that happened? Go ahead I'll wait. Ok, that was rhetorical because we all know that the answer is never. We need to ask ourselves if we would prefer being Giants, Royals, or Marlins fans. Or even another large market team like Washington. Of course the answer is no.

    I know I'm going to get some criticism for this post, and some of it is probably going to be valid, but I'm no Pollyanna, I get that this team is expected to win championships. Heck, I'll be as disappointed as anyone else with an early exit this year but there are some things we need to think about before we get anywhere that point. First of all it's June and teams go through rough periods during the course of a long season. If you want a recent example take a look at last years NL pennant winner and where they were after 78 games (hint: they were 1 game worse than our boys at 41-36). Also realize that our team that some have called "cheap" just went out and spent $43 mil on a closer, does that sound like a team that isn't trying? We can kvetch about the Russels, Descalsos and Gonzales but we also have to realize that the team isn't asking these guys to be awful. Stuff happens. It's a long season, we're going to get frustrated but we're also going to feel like we did last night more often than not. Let's just remember that this is supposed to be fun and an escape from our daily grind, not another burden to bear. Go cubs!

  • In reply to TC154:

    Some great thoughts here, TC. I'm as guilty as anyone of gravitating to the negative side of things. Part of it, I think, is that we've seen so many times that the Cubs were "supposed" to win it, and failed. 1969, 1984, 1998, 2003, and I think some of us lump 2018 in that group. We're just waiting for the next one to happen.
    At other times, I kind of expect this team to somehow "make up" for all those years of futility, like when I think of how many World Series celebrations have taken place in that boring city with the big arch. In fairness, shouldn't the Cubs win every year until WE have more? But, life ain't fair, and neither is baseball.
    The biggest thing, for me, is the window. We've been around long enough to know that the opportunity to win goes in cycles, and in the Cubs case the down cycles have been long ones. Our experience says that, like economic recession, another low point is coming, so there's a desperation to win while we're in an "up" cycle. At times, I'm guilty of this, too.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I like your even handed take on this. Especially since lifelong die hards like me, (yep, I went to a number of games in '69- the heartbreaker that keeps on giving), tend to roll eyes, curse at the TV and take it 'personally' when Bote whiffs on a throw from Baez like he did last night. Having said that, I do think this team lacks the consistent intensity it had in '15 and 16'. It just wasn't there last year and it's been on and off this season. You could really sense it back in mid April-May when they had that nice streak and were finding ways to win. For whatever reason, it just hasn't been there in June. There've been games like last night, where everyone seems to remember to go the other way with pitches, but just as many where they seem to lose the strike zone and the Ks pile up.

    I don't know. They undoubtedly have serious talent and Theo will make some more moves to bolster the BP, but I wonder if they need a real shake up move. To beat the Astros and Dodgers they're gonna have to beat their pitching. I can't help but think about what a guy like Merrifield would do in that line up. It would be a painful price to pay, but for the first time, I'm thinking a high OBP, high contact guy could be the straw that stirs that drink, even if they have to give up a Schwarber, Almora/Happ, Montgomery package to get him. That might not even be enough. Anyway... My point is, I believe they need to find a way to kickstart that offense consistently. They can add pitching, but they need to win some 8-7, 9-6 games. They haven't had that chemistry since Fowler left and I don't think it's a coincidence.

    Sorry for the ramble, but because I really do have hope for these guys, there are real question marks and it's good to air em out.

  • In reply to Ronson54:

    1969 was when I became a fan, as an eight year old. My life as a sports fan began in trauma. Still though I fell in love with the game and that was that. In around 1971 I decided I needed a number two team, and I had an opportunity to meet and get Carl Yastrzemski's autograph at a White Sox game (my dad's team), so I chose the Red Sox. My father even arranged for one of his colleagues to send me the Sunday Boston Globe every week for the box scores and features. More trauma. Because of my Dad my number three team was the White Sox and...you get the gist. For those reasons, and for how long I had to wait on the Red Sox, and the White Sox and finally my real boys, the Cubs, I have a pretty healthy dose of perspective.

  • In reply to TC154:

    '69 was an incredible year. Cubs enjoyed a big lead until late, Holtzman's no hitter, Santo's heel click...

    I was 13. NW Burbs. (Hence my tag line, Milwaukee Road). Our Pony League team went 18-1 that Summer winning the championship game 1-0 against Addison.

  • In reply to Ronson54:

    I don't know who is the dominant LHP we talk about acquiring, but I think the Cubs will include Edwards in that package. I don't know why but I feel he would be a piece to go as would Maples.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    I'm not sure about that. You don't often trade relievers for relievers, though with Maples' potential and team control that's a possibility. I see Monty going in some sort of deal, possibly for a position player. His role on this team seems to have dissolved, and some team may want him as a starter.

    I don't know what's up with Happ. I know he has things to work on, but my sixth sense tells me there's more to this story. He did an interview at the beginning of this year and seemed a bit defiant and bitter to me, and has refused interviews ever since. I remember Theo's year-end presser after last season's disappointing end, and something that stuck out to me was him saying some of the young guys weren't showing up ready to play everyday. I still don't know what he meant by that or who he was referring to, but when I try putting two and two together, it's just not adding up with Happ.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I can see Monty going. I wonder if Happ looks around and feels he's better than the other guys and should be on the field. I've seen talent get trumped by positive attitude.

  • In reply to TC154:

    The Dodgers got off to a really bad start last season. I believe they were 16-26 at one point, so by the time they reached game 78, they were already on a big upswing. If the Cubs can put together another 23-7 run, or even something like win 10 of 12, 14 of 20, etc, that would go a long way to making folks feel a little better.

  • In reply to TC154:

    52 out of the last 81 are against the Central. Does that mean the schedule is easier with less travel and no other division leaders left to play? Is one way of looking at it. Or is it actually tougher because the Central competition is all better this year?
    The roster will be stronger with the bullpen stabilized. The still to be told untold story (wth, the doesn’t make much sense lol) may begin tonight. This kid just might be the special spark that makes this team take off. Am looking for the Braves to be on their heels with the speed Adbert dictates his game, maybe some grousing, some tempers.....we need to get him some runs early, get him a lead and let him do his thing.....it will be fun to watch.
    They just have to get back to winning series. We got one in the can already, let’s get another tonight.

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    The Central is interesting, isn't it? Normally you'd figure on one or two teams selling, and Pittsburgh probably will, but will Cincinnati? One month before that decision needs to be made I wouldn't if I were them. Their Pythagorean record indicates they are a much better team than their actual record suggests and Scooter Gennett is coming back and that could provide a spark. So if they're 2 or 3 games over .500 on July 20 what's the call? I've maintained all along that St. Louis is a better team than Milwaukee but the Hicks injury is very, very bad for them. If they can't hold leads they can't win. They only have 2 games with the Cubs and none with the Brewers before the deadline so no real chance to make up quick ground so what do they do if they're a couple games over .500 on July 20? Three teams could definitely come out of the Central considering that, outside of Atlanta, the NL East seems to want to collectively wet the bed and I don't buy Colorado so does that make teams hang on with no waiver deadline this year? Hard to say. If only the Pirates sell those division games, 37 of them coming after the deadline, could still be very competitive. On the whole I think the Cubs clearly have the upper hand particularly with a LHP acquired for the pen and some kind of bat, part time or full time, to help with slumps. 1-5 is very good, Heyward is having his best month as a Cub and that last little offensive piece could make this a very hard team to beat. So much fun to look forward to. Ain't baseball grand?

  • In reply to TC154:

    Especially grand and good when we are right in the hunt yes! If we get to 45 wins by Thursday that equates to 90 for the year. I think they still exceed that barring injuries, there shouldn’t be a 2-7 stumble, at least I hope not. They can’t gain on us if we go plus .500 against them and we have some whoop ass to still lay on Cincy and the Crew.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Great post TC and I don't know what you said that warrants criticism. I'm just gonna be honest when I say that I'm not all that concerned by this rough recent stretch. This cubs team is arguably the 2nd best team in the NL, and I'd go as far as to say that I think they are (like their pitching staff over Atlanta's plus that teams inexperienced). I actually warned some of my cub fan friends that I was worried about this long June stretch. The cubs have had struggles even in 2016 during these long June stretches with little rest, and this also happens to be a tough portion of their schedule. Add in the fact that some guys are out and Javy slowing down after his injury. But there's good news for one they don't have all those makeup games in the 2nd half like last season. You look at the schedule in the 2nd half and it's a lot more manageable, with the cubs essentially done playing top teams in other divisions including Houston from the AL. Key is gotta win those divisional rivalry head to heads.

    But like you said going out and signing a big name closer like Kimbrel for $43 million doesn't happen in every organization. You gotta have a destination that's desirable, a GM that knows how to sell players on this team, and an ownership that's committed to winning championships (Ricketts didn't have to ok this expense). I strongly believe that move was made with other moves in mind to reinforce this roster. There's absolutely no excuse talent-wise to me for this team not to be a playoff team. Frankly without being amongst the leaders in blown saves, then they'd already be 15+ games over .500. I hope those early bullpen losses don't come back to bite them later on.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    KK your comments on blown saves makes sense but not all blown saves lead to losses. I checked and at least 3 or 4 of the 12 blown saves were in fact wins when the games ended,

    All teams have blown saves, LA and Atlanta have more blown saves than the Cubs and don't seem to be suffering.

    If every team had less blown saves maybe the cubs in fact would have more losses, since some of those blown saves may have been caused by the cubs.

    Why focus solely on blown saves rather than also identifying come from behind wins. I get it, come from behind wins are well deserved wins while blown saves are not well deserved losses. If the teams batting average was higher then they might have less losses. How many more wins would they have if hitting with RISP was improved. How many games more would they be over .500 if they improved RISP 20 points? I have no clue but they probably would but there probably are no stats that indicate how many more wins an improvement in RISP hitting would lead to. It’s easier to focus on blown saves but they alone aren't the cause of the cub record being what it is.

  • In reply to stix:

    Yeah good point on how some of these blown saves turn to wins. In general I shouldn't have just used blown saves as the only statistic of reference for my overall point. But in general the cubs bullpen has been mediocre, even with this starting staff eating innings and giving them a good shot to succeed for the most part. Even blown saves aside, they haven't fared well in 1-2 run games and I think that's in large part just this bullpens inability to win battles of the bullpens. Even if we assume that me saying they should be 15+ games over .500 is an overstatement, I'd still say this team should be at least 10-15 games over .500 if not for this pens struggles in save spots and close 1-2 run games. On the dodgers and braves both teams bullpens are those teams biggest weaknesses by far in the dodgers case. Atlanta's bullpen is mediocre and Luke Jackson isn't an ideal closer for a title contender, and Minter is struggling this season. For LA, Kenley isn't having his best season and their setup group has struggled all season. It's gonna be a competitive bullpen trade market amongst these teams and others, which is why I'm glad the cubs signed Kimbrel. I just wasn't sure they had the prospect currency to fill all of these needs on the trade market.

    The RISP issues I think are sort of just what this team is. They get a lot of guys on base but aren't always consistent getting those runners in. In general it's been an issue in this offenses inconsistency even in 2016 at times. In general it's still a good offense though they just are frustrating to watch when they need to manufacture a run sometimes. I do think they can clearly use a bat.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I believe your mediocre statement is a little over the top. It's a perception thing. The comment below was written on MLB Trade Rumers on 6/23. These stats are for the entire ML, not just the NL. I think we have been spoiled by a pretty good relief core since 2015 that we don't understand mediocre anymore. We are used to good to very good.

    "Barnette will now work for a contender in Chicago, whose bullpen ranks sixth in the majors in ERA, 10th in FIP and 18th in K/BB ratio. The Cubs’ two innings leaders – Steve Cishek and Brandon Kintzler – have posted fine results, but aside from them and Kyle Ryan, they haven’t gotten impressive production from any of their regular relievers."

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    I actually was aware of the cubs favorable bullpen ERA but I'm not a fan of that team stat, I feel it doesn't put team situations into proper context (Team ERA has always favored the cubs pen more than other stats). I do agree that at times I and others can get overdramatic about pen struggles, and I do agree in some ways we're spoiled. Cubs fans have championship expectations these days and any facet that doesn't consistently perform at that level gets scutinized, I'm guilty of this myself sometimes.

    But I think the cubs pen is generally put in a position to succeed vs. most pens. They're amongst the league leaders in starters innings pitched due to a strong, durable, veteran rotation. There's a difference between the pen having to go 2-4 innings and being able to set up your pen nicely (plus rest guys more) vs. having to eat 4-5+ innings regularly like other teams such as NYY, Milwaukee and a number of other teams. Most teams just don't have a durable starting staff that consistently eat 6-7+ innings relative to other starting staffs. Also the cubs haven't fared particularly well in 1-2 run games for a high end team, and I think the pen is the primary reason for that. You're right that mediocre is a strong word for this pen given the stats, and they have mostly been above average in the past. I'd also add that the pen as assembled now isn't going to be the pen that we can expect in the future. Strop hasn't been healthy most of the season, and I actually believe this pen is due for a 360 degree turnaround in the 2nd half. I also expect them to acquire a lefty set up type, plus Darvish or Quintana, and Alzolay maybe a nice bullpen reinforcement come playoff time. I think the pen as assembled through the 1st 2 months isn't a championship pen, but I have zero concern long term this year there's plenty of upcoming reinforcements.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I hope it’s a 180 turnaround otherwise they just back to who they are.

    I tend to agree with you on expectations now that the team record has been over 90+ wins for 4 straight years. Some of those 1-2 run losses are probably the result of the BP giving up runs when the team is behind and give up more runs, so that the false “come from behind” rallies might get to 1-2 run losses, which might have been come from behind wins if the BP would have held the fort instead of giving add on runs.

  • Very true TC, I was thinking the other day that that one victory in both series on the last road trip were really significant. When a team is slumping, surviving on a west coast trip and spiltting at home can take some doing.

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    Is anyone else giddy/nervous about tonight's game? Alzolay is getting his 1st start. Are the Braves going to retaliate? Is Heyward going to beat up his old team?

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    Will Joe start Caratini tonight to "rest" Contreras? He probably caught Alzolay at AAA anyway. I don't see any "retaliation" coming, last night's issue was pretty minor and seems to have blown over.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Well, except did you see that Tyler Flowers stayed up ALL NIGHT LONG responding to every single fan on Instagram on the MLB video of the HR? Dude was completely unhinged. It made me hope the guy has a therapist on speed dial.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I don't do Instagram, so I missed it, but if Flowers stayed up all night, he's got issues for sure. Maybe Willson was trying to get in his head?

  • In reply to TC154:

    I’m not much of a lip reader but what I made out from Flowers was “I didn’t say sh#t”!

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    In reply to Cliff1969:

    I'm mostly giddy to watch Alzolay start tonight. Of course, we all hope he does well. As for the retaliation, Rizzo looked pretty pissed and Atlanta saw it. Yeah, KB got hit in the left shoulder lastnite, but Tehran had absolutely no command. If Flowers didn't say anything when Contreras was barking at the ump for his bad calls, none of that would've went down. Now if they plunk anyone tonight, especially Rizzo, I think there's going to be a brawl.

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    I'm really hoping for a great game for the kid. I'd really like to see him in the starting rotation next year, and he can certainly help the Cubs as a long reliever / spot starter this year. As for a brawl, anything is possible. Regardless of how much he was provoked (if he was at all), Willson got under some skins last night!

  • What hasn't been discussed a lot here is how about that start from Jon Lester? One of the more common panic statements by cubs fans recently has been this pitching staff is too old. I get that's a long term concern but which of these old guys are such a liability to this roster currently? Hamels has been the team ace IMO, Cishek has been their best reliever, and I'll trust Lester any day in a bad team and think the concerns over his decline are exaggerated. He still looks like the same guy to me as he has these past couple of years, and he really hasn't been overpowering hitters since he was 31 anyways.

    Lester was saying before the game that he feels the recent issue has been that he's simply lost the feel of his cutter, and he said his curveball has felt almost foreign recently. For a pitcher that mixes his pitches well and relies on offspeed command, that's a huge issue. That analysis also pretty much matches what my eye test is seeing, just not the same command and crispness on his offspeed stuff (esp. curveball). Well I thought both the cutter and esp the curveball were outstanding last night. To dominate against a healthy red hot lineup like Atlanta shows that the Lester of old is still there. His peripherals have been down for years and he's mostly outperformed those peripherals. But this is a guy that still knows how to get big league hitters out. And as last night showed when he's commanding all 3 pitches, then he can still look like the ace we've seen for years.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I don't know what I wrote but meant "I'll trust Lester any day in big games.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Good point. Lester did a great job last night. I was glad Joe took him out after 6 innings and 94 pitches. With a big lead, I'd rather he save those bullets for down the stretch and let the bullpen handle it.

    Tony Barnette has a weird windup. If he's effective, who cares, but it's still weird.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I agree Cliff and I think Barnette started with some jitters, his command was a lot more crisp recently in AAA. He's generally a guy that goes right after hitters aggressively, so I was surprised to see him fall behind in the count a lot. Glad he at least retired Donaldson before Ryan came in. I was initially against removing Lester because I didn't want to trust this bullpen, nor did I want to make Cishek and Strop unavailable for today's game. But I think Maddon was right upon further review. I have to remember that Maddon is thinking about Jon Lester's long term interests. He's already had an injury maybe partially due to overuse, and he's had some struggles since that injury. The team is going to need him in October and as a fan I think it needs to be understood that he's 35 not 31 anymore. Great to see that type of performance from him against a red hot lineup. Really he almost escaped that 6th inning unscathed if it weren't for Markakis's fortunate bouncing groundball single that found a hole.

  • Looking forward to tonight’s game. Should be a real test for the kid.

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