Through the end of May, Braves starter Matt Wisler was generating a modicum of discussion through the fact that he was outpitching his peripherals handily: his 3.16 ERA undercut his 3.74 FIP, which in turn undercut an xFIP of 4.70. Wisler was flourishing despite a pretty underwhelming strikeout-to-walk ratio, and was suppressing homers while doing so.
Needless to say for anyone who’s watched his last two starts, that kind of fun ride seems to have come to an abrupt, whiplash-inducing halt. For the second start in a row, the sophomore starter allowed three homers, and while that will bring his ERA and FIP into closer alignment, that's not a happy occurrence for neither him nor the Braves.
The game itself played out in much more expected fashion than last night’s thrilling upset. The top of the first gave Braves fans a familiar sight, as perpetual conversation/imbroglio inciter Jason Heyward took a 1-1 pitch over the plate out to deep right field for a solo homer. Wisler recovered to pitch well for a few innings after that, including working out of a second-and-third, none out jam in the third inning by getting a groundout from Dexter Fowler, a strikeout from Heyward, and a fly out from Kris Bryant.
Wisler’s wheels unfortunately fell off in the fourth. Anthony Rizzo hit the first pitch of the inning out to right center to make it a 2-0 game. Two hard-hit singles followed, and then Miguel Montero wrapped his bat around a 1-2 pitch on the outer half of the plate and drove it just over the wall in right center to put a 5-0 smackdown on the home team. Wisler finished the inning, but that was it, ending the day having allowed all five runs on seven hits while striking out just two in four innings. It was his second consecutive start giving up three homers, and he has allowed as many homers in his last two tries as he had all season before then.
Things didn’t get much better as the bullpen took over. Eric O’Flaherty allowed a leadoff single to Heyward to start the fifth, and then facing a righty for some reason (I mean, sure, who cares, but still), allowed a screaming line drive that cleared the left field fence from Kris Bryant's bat. In the sixth, O’Flaherty allowed another run on a double to Fowler that went over center fielder Ender Inciarte’s head. Ian Krol, Alexi Ogando, and Hunter Cervenka then wrapped up with three scoreless frames; Cervenka struck out the side in his despite allowing two baserunners.
On the offensive side, the Braves were deftly handled by Jake Arrieta. who worked much of the game with a large cushion. Arrieta largely pitched to contact and let the Braves get themselves out, which worked pretty well except when it didn’t. He allowed just six baserunners in seven innings but was touched for two runs: one on an Adonis Garcia single scoring Nick Markakis following his double, and the other an Inciarte triple that Heyward did not manage to flag down, scoring Jace Peterson, who drew a leadoff walk.
The Braves managed just five hits, two of the extra base variety; the Cubs had as manu extra-base hits in this game as the Braves had baserunners. All-in-all, it was a very by-the-book result for a contest featuring the best and worst team in the majors. Despite all odds, the Braves will try for a series victory tomorrow.