After taking a major beating during their doubleheader on Sunday, the Braves brought the bats to the ballpark on Monday and ended up taking down the Cubs in an 8-7 slugfest of a game.
The first inning of this game served as a palate cleanser for both the Braves and the fans who were brave enough to watch all 14 innings of their doubleheader debacle on Sunday. After scoring four runs on Zach Davies back on April 16, the Braves must have decided that it would be fun to equal that effort in just one inning of work. Ronald Acuña Jr. hit a deep fly ball for an out to start the inning, then the Braves proceeded to go walk, double, single, and single before Dansby Swanson struck out for the second out. Those four at-bats produced three runs for Atlanta, and then Guillermo Heredia put the cherry on top by hitting a double to plate the fourth run of the inning. You know things are going well when the final out of the first inning is the starting pitcher.
Speaking of, Charlie Morton took the mound and he ended up continuing his pattern of having one start where he gives up a bunch of runs and then following it up with a start where he holds the opposing offense at bay. Unfortunately, this was the former for Morton and it didn’t take the Cubs too long to get all four of those runs back. In the third inning, Morton found himself in a bases loaded, two-out situation with Kris Bryant at bat. To be fair to Charlie Morton, the curveball he threw to Kris Bryant wasn’t necessarily a bad pitch. It just turns out that Kris Bryant is the type of batter who can take a pitch inside and on the black and pull it over the fence in left field. The grand slam tied the game at four and it was pretty frustrating to see the Cubs tie it up in one swing after the Braves did all that work in the first inning to get those four runs.
The good news is that the offense didn’t end there for Atlanta this evening. Before the game began, Dansby Swanson must have figured that the vibes at his home ballpark were way off. So he proceeded to go on a pregame grand tour of the ballpark while burning sage. I’m not going to sit here and tell you whether or not there’s tangible proof of it working, but I will say that it couldn’t have hurt much since Dansby did in fact hit a go-ahead home run in the bottom of the 3rd to give the lead right back to the Braves.
The scoring took a lull in the fourth inning before coming back for both teams in the fifth inning. That was when the Cubs led off their batting frame with a walk and a double. Anthony Rizzo then brought home Tony Wolters on a sacrifice fly to Marcell Ozuna to tie things up once again. After retiring the last batter of the fifth, the first batter of the sixth and walking the next batter after that, Charlie Morton left the game with 5.1 IP and eventually five earned runs to his name. If this weird pattern holds, then I think we should all be expecting nothing but good things from Charlie Morton when he returns to the bump in a few days.
Charlie F'n Morton, Vile 81mph Curveball. pic.twitter.com/2qOpveTp2C— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 26, 2021
Morton was surely grateful for the fact that the lineup was picking him up in a big way this evening. Atlanta responded immediately in the bottom half of the sixth inning as Guillermo Heredia got himself a double with one out and then Acuña reached on a walk with two outs to bring up Freddie Freeman. Freddie saw seven pitches in that at-bat and fouled off three of them. The seventh pitch of the battle resulted in Freeman delivering a haymaker to the Cubs, as he sent one flying into the Chop House for a three-run shot to put Atlanta in front once again.
After striking out the final two batters of the sixth inning and making sure that Charlie Morton’s earned run tally stayed at five, Tyler Matzek got the ball to start the seventh inning. That ended up being a mess of an inning for Matzek, as he walked the leadoff batter and then Wilson Contreras launched a gargantuan moonshot that will go down as one of the longest dingers ever clubbed in the relatively short history of the ballpark in Cobb County. Matzek then walked Rizzo and that was the end of his night.
He gave way to Nate Jones, who had an absolutely terrifying outing where he gave up a couple of deep fly balls and hit Ian Happ with a pitch in the process. Amazingly, both of the fly balls were outs and he was especially fortunate to get away with the David Bote lineout, which had an xBA of .850. At this point, we can’t complain about Braves relievers getting outs and we should just be grateful that they’re even getting the outs in the first place.
Eventually it came down to Will Smith having to nurse that one-run lead in the top of the ninth inning. Even though Smith walked Kris Bryant out of an abundance of caution, he had little-to-no issue dealing with the other three Cubs who came to the plate in the ninth inning. He struck out Wilson Contreras, induced a harmless fly ball out of Anthony Rizzo and then finished it off by getting Ian Happ to ground out for the 27th out of Atlanta’s 10th win of the season.
It’s safe to say that both of these teams needed a bounce-back night on offense and the Braves definitely needed it after their misadventure on Sunday. They got just what the doctor ordered with this performance, as they managed to outslug the Cubs and start off this four-game series on the right note.