The wind wasn’t blowing out today at Wrigley Field exactly, but it wasn’t blowing straight in either. The 8 mph right-to-left breeze at least opened up the possibility that a ball or two might get out to left field today, and the Braves took advantage in a major way. They hit a couple homers over the course of the game and hit three doubles in a row (all to left field, naturally) in the fifth to walk to a 6-0 victory over the Cubs and salvage a successful 4-2 road trip.
The Braves jumped out in the first with a bomb off the bat of Travis d’Arnaud. The ball sailed over the recently-expanded left field seating and out onto the street, and just like that, it was 3-0 in favor of the visitors. Atlanta scored their other three runs in that fifth inning. Michael Harris led off the frame with an opposite-field homer, then the three straight doubles came from Dansby Swanson, Austin Riley and Matt Olson. Six of the nine Atlanta hits came in those two innings, but it was enough to build what looked to be a safe cushion in our quest to salvage a game from the three-game set.
The only time that goal seemed to be in any kind of notable danger came when the Cubs loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth. Jesse Chavez had struck out the first two batters of the inning, but two singles and a walk had put him in trouble. A.J. Minter entered the game and restored order, however, inducing an inning-ending flyout to right field on a 1-1 pitch to keep the shutout intact.
The Cubs obviously needed at least those three runs that they left on, plus probably an additional marker or two in that inning, to have any real shot at the miracle comeback. They went quietly against Kenley Jansen (who hadn’t pitched in a week) in the ninth.
Ian Anderson got the win (yes, I’m mentioning who got the win…sue me) with a very good performance: 6.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K. He had one spot of trouble in the sixth, allowing the first two Cubs to reach with the Braves already up 6-0. He sandwiched a shallow flyout between a pair of groundouts to get out of the inning with no damage. He even got some length in this one, pitching well into the seventh.
The Braves did what they needed to do against the dregs of the league (and some of the dregs from the other league) during this stretch of 29 games (plus the Phillies, who were kind of in the middle of the stretch so I didn’t want to take them out, but I don’t really think they’re terrible). They went 21-8 during that stretch, which was good enough to slice the Mets lead by about half. The Braves are now 5.5 games back of the Mets, and they’re in a wild card spot currently, a half-game ahead of a tie for the NL Central lead between Milwaukee and St. Louis. Job done for that stretch, but now comes a seven-game homestand against two other teams who are also currently in the much-too-early playoff field.
First come four games with San Francisco, who’s currently percentage points ahead of the Braves in the wild-card race. Then next weekend LA comes in, and they’re currently three games better than Atlanta. Additionally, we’ll have almost certainly the two highest-profile ring ceremonies for former teammates coming in, with Joc Pederson a member of the Giants and (duh) Freddie Freeman a member of the Dodgers. So if you thought we were done with all that, guess again.
If we can hold our own and go 4-3 on this homestand, that’s a pretty clear win in my book. Anything more is gravy. Having said that, I for one am looking forward to seeing how we match up with a couple teams we may very well have to beat in October if we want to have ring ceremonies again next year.