Braves 3, Cubs 2: Almost All Olt

Mike Zarrilli

The Cubs didn't hit much Friday night. Almost not at all, in fact.

It's a good thing manager Rick Renteria put Mike Olt in Friday night's starting lineup.

Because if he hadn't... well, for one thing, this guy would have been really unhappy.

Olt's third-inning home run was the only hit the Cubs managed off Braves starter Julio Teheran in eight innings. Teheran issued a pair of walks and struck out nine, the second time this week that an opposing starter had limited the punchless Cubs to one hit in seven or more innings (if you've already forgotten, the White Sox' Jose Quintana did it last Monday).

Jason Hammel also threw very well Friday evening. His seven-inning, seven-hit, two-earned-run outing likely continued him on the path to a contender's starting rotation come July. Nice knowin' ya, Jason.

Surprisingly, the Cubs managed to tie the game in the ninth inning off Craig Kimbrel, who takes a pose like a deranged pelican before he goes into the stretch. Chris Coghlan led off the inning with a single, took second on a groundout and scored on Ryan Kalish's single. It was Kimbrel's second blown save of the season, and the first time in eight career games against the Cubs that the Cubs had scored a run off him (in the seven previous games, the Cubs had five total hits and had struck out 13 times in seven innings).

So that's good, right?

Well, it was good for about 10 minutes. Hector Rondon retired the Braves 1-2-3 in the last of the ninth, and after the Cubs failed to score in the 10th, Wesley Wright walked Jason Heyward leading off the bottom of the inning.

Then, Wright picked Heyward off first. That's good, right?

It would have been if Anthony Rizzo had managed to throw Heyward out at second, but he didn't. Justin Upton was intentionally walked and Freddie Freeman singled Heyward in, and the Braves had a 3-2, 10-inning win over the Cubs, dropping the Cubs' record in one-run games to 2-7.

The Cubs are going to have to figure out something regarding their backup catcher spot. John Baker has taken on the role as Jason Hammel's personal catcher -- he's caught all but one of Hammel's starts. Unfortunately, that means the Cubs have two spots in the batting order when Hammel bats where they are essentially saying to the other team, "Here, have an out." Baker's OPS of .225 (no, that's not a batting average. That's an OPS) is the second-lowest of any player this year with as many plate appearances. He's 2-for-29. Hammel is 1-for-14. They've combined for 19 strikeouts in the 43 at-bats, and two RBI -- both by Hammel.

Backup catcher. Well, we've argued about this here before. (A lot.) It's not a hugely important position, and the Cubs are using theirs every fifth game. Baker can't hit. At all. It would be nice to find someone else, even though the Cubs are 4-4 in games he has started (mostly because of Hammel's good pitching).

The game took three hours and seven minutes (after a brief rain delay before it began). That's an hour shorter than Thursday night's game at the Cell, despite being an inning longer. See, Cubs? You can play fast-paced games!

The two teams will go at it again Saturday evening, with Jeff Samardzija facing Ervin Santana. I hope to see Mike Olt in the starting lineup again.

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