Games at Wrigley Field are almost always fun to watch. The ballpark is a living legend in itself, the wind patterns have the potential to shake the park factor up from day to day, and in normal circumstances, the home team is probably going to lose. For 2 out of 3 of these games, that final part was true as the Braves went into Wrigley and beat the Cubs in 2 out of 3 games, giving them a series victory heading into the All-Star Break.
The first game of the series was an up-and-down affair, and it set the tone for the series in a couple of ways. One was that the bats were alive for both teams, and it would stay that way for the rest of the series. This was surprising given the fact that Cubs' pitcher Jake Arrieta had been pitching some excellent baseball going into this one. The Braves were able to add 3 earned runs onto Arrieta's tally, which was only one less than the 4 earned runs that he gave up in his past 6 starts combined. Alas, it wasn't enough to win, as Chris Coghlan and Justin Ruggiano both had good days at the plate, with Ruggiano driving in the game-winning walk-off run in the bottom of the 9th to give the Cubs a 5-4 victory, despite heroics from Christian Bethancourt in the top half of that inning.
Which brings me to the second way in which Friday's game set the tone for the series: Chris Coghlan. Coghlan was all over the place in this series for Chicago, going 6-13 with 3 doubles, 1 HR, 6 RBI, and 1 stolen base. Saturday was when he got 2 of those doubles, but that paled in comparison to what Chris Johnson did on Saturday. Johnson's bat experienced a power surge at Wrigley, as he hit a pair of 2-run homers and was the biggest factor in an offensive explosion for Atlanta as they won Saturday's game 11-6.
Sunday was more of the same for both teams, but the difference was that it took the Cubs a while to really wake up. The Braves, on the other hand, were all over Cubs in this one, and once again, it was Chris Johnson who broke things open. This time, a 3-run dinger from the normally light-hitting 3rd baseman spread the Braves' lead from 4-0 to 7-0. In the 7th inning, Tommy La Stella drove in 3 runs of his own. Unfortunately it wasn't a homer so his pursuit of his first career Major League homer continues on, but a double is nice as well, and the 10-2 lead the Braves had at that point seemed like it ended the game right then and there.
But then Luis Avilan came in during the 8th inning with a 10-4 lead. All 3 batters he faced made it on base, and all three of those batters made it home after he was pulled. Avilan's ERA is now at 4.85 and his xFIP is at 4.43, which is less than ideal to say the least. Jordan Walden was able to keep the score at 10-7, which meant that TLS's 3-run double in the 7th was now the difference. Kids, don't ever let people tell you that running up the score is bad, because you'll never know when "running up the score" turns into "insurance." Anyways, Craig Kimbrel got the save to end the game, and give the Braves the series victory.
The Braves have now finished the season series with the Cubs at 5-1, and will be going into 2nd half of the season 9 games above .500 with a piece of 1st place in their grasp. All in all, this is not a bad way to end the 1st half of the season, and this was a good bounce-back from the abject Mets series in New York.