This is what I get, I suppose, for predicting the Cubs would sweep this series.
The Cubs came into this game 24½ games ahead of the Braves, with the best record in baseball. The Braves had not only the worst record in the game, but the worst record in their home park, while the Cubs had the best record on the road.
Result? Of course, a 5-1 Braves win. Because baseball.
Perhaps I should have paid more attention to the fact that the Cubs' all-time record in Turner Field, coming into Friday's game, was 28-41. The only road park the Cubs have more losses in since the Ted opened in 1997 is Chase Field (44). So, the Cubs will not be sad to say goodbye to the downtown Atlanta ballpark after two more games, Saturday and Sunday.
Jason Hammel gave up solo homers to Adonis Garcia (his first since Opening Day) and Tyler Flowers (his first since May 18) in a span of five pitches. Remember, this is a team that came into this game with 25 fewer home runs than any other major-league team. And Hammel had given up only three homers in his last 35 innings.
Sigh. Because baseball. Those two runs alone were enough to win this game as the Cubs' offense struggled all game, coming up with just four hits. The only run the Cubs managed scored on a double by Albert Almora Jr., a wild pitch and a groundout. The Cubs did hit the ball hard all night, just right at people. That included Chris Coghlan, who pinch-hit in his first Cubs at-bat since his return and hit a sharp line drive right to Braves second baseman Jace Peterson on the first pitch he saw.
The score could have been a lot higher in favor of the Braves if not for some outstanding defense by Cubs fielders, so let's look at those. First, this great sliding catch by Almora, complete with some numbers via Statcast:
Here's a nice catch by Ben Zobrist of a line drive in the first inning:
And here's another fine catch by Almora [VIDEO] and a nifty sliding grab by Jason Heyward [VIDEO]. The Cubs even got an inning-ending double play on an appeal play [VIDEO] when Mallex Smith failed to touch second base on his way back to first. You don't see appeal plays made very often these days, much less actually get outs on them.
The other thing that should be mentioned is that the back end of the bullpen wasn't very good. Travis Wood and Adam Warren managed to keep the game reasonably close at 3-1 until the eighth, when Justin Grimm loaded the bases on two singles and a walk. Clayton Richard was summoned to face the lefthanded-hitting Ender Inciarte, who promptly delivered a run-scoring single on Richard's first pitch. A sacrifice fly later scored another run, charged to Grimm. Richard got out of the inning, so his ERA drops, but his outing really wasn't very good. The Cubs have got to be considering replacing him.
Give credit to Bud Norris, who looked like the 1.9 bWAR Norris of a couple of years ago with the Orioles rather than the bad pitcher he'd been so far this year. He had Cubs hitters off balance all night and didn't walk anyone. In fact, the Cubs drew no walks in this game, just the third time that had happened this year and the first time the Cubs lost a game in which they did not walk. That keeps the Cubs' season walk total at 254, an average of 4.31 per game. Season pace: 697, still enough to break the team record of 650.
I do think that will change, at least as far as the Braves are concerned, over the next two days, with the Cubs' two best pitchers starting. Saturday afternoon at 3:10 CT, Jake Arrieta will face Matt Wisler. The game preview will post at 1 p.m. CT.