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Braves 3, Cubs 2: Running on empty

Some bad baserunning helped turn this into a loss.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

On the Cubs TV broadcast Tuesday night, Len Kasper said of a certain play, “We’re going to show this just once and then burn the tape.”

Since what Len referred to simply as “this” was an important play in the Cubs’ 3-2 loss to the Braves, I’m going to show it to you as well (and maybe they did burn it, as the video here is from the Atlanta broadcast).

Situation: The Cubs had the bases loaded with one out in the second inning, down 1-0, with Adbert Alzolay at bat. Here’s what happened [VIDEO].

Alzolay missed a bunt attempt and Javier Baez was hung up in between third and home and tagged out. But what was Willson Contreras doing so far from second base once he saw Baez was going to be tagged? Here’s an explanation via Jordan Bastian:

At the same time, Willson Contreras is on second base watching this whole thing unfold in front of him. Baez did a few stutter-steps before back-pedaling in the direction of third. Contreras stayed put for a moment, waiting to see what Baez was going to do.

[Joe] Maddon said Contreras needed to make a quicker decision as that is all going on.

“Once Javy gets in the rundown, just go,” Maddon said. “Just go and stand on third base. If he’s out, he’s out. Or, you just stay at second base. You’ve got either decision to make.”

Instead, Contreras did not start booking it for third base until just before Baez was tagged out by third baseman Josh Donaldson, following the throw from catcher Brian McCann.

At the time, while that ran the Cubs out of the inning, it might not have seemed that important in a 1-0 game. But the Cubs went on to lose 3-2 to the Braves and who knows? Staying out of that rundown, the team might have scored one or more runs and then the whole game is different. Contreras, standup guy, took responsibility:

Alzolay, as he had done in his MLB debut, threw four good innings. The only hit he allowed was Ronald Acuna Jr.’s leadoff home run, which helped set a major-league record Tuesday night:

After that homer, though, Alzolay settled down and retired 12 of the next 13 hitters.

Meanwhile, the Cubs did take the lead in the fourth. With runners on first and second and one out, Contreras doubled them both in [VIDEO].

Alzolay unraveled in the fifth, and unfortunately, it was partly thanks to more bad ball-and-strike calls. Take your bow, Lance Barksdale:

Looks like pitch 4 and pitch 8 could have both been called strikes, and Max Fried should have been called out on strikes to end the inning. Instead, he walked, and Alzolay also walked Acuna, loading the bases, before Joe replaced him with Mike Montgomery.

And so:

Overall, despite four walks, this was a good outing for Alzolay and he certainly deserves more starts.

Montgomery got out of that inning and also threw a 1-2-3 sixth before allowing a one-out single to Brian McCann in the seventh. Ozzie Albies then homered to give the Braves a 3-2 lead.

Albies, career vs. Cubs (15 games): .483/.529/.877 (29-for-60), seven doubles, a triple, four home runs. Yikes. Almost better just to walk that guy.

In the bottom of the eighth, Albert Almora Jr. and Kyle Schwarber led off with singles, but Kris Bryant smacked into a double play on the first pitch he saw, and that was pretty much the end of that, as Braves closer Luke Jackson retired the Cubs 1-2-3 in the ninth.

Credit where it’s due: Brad Brach, who’s been mostly bad this year, threw two scoreless innings with one baserunner (a walk) and three strikeouts, keeping the game close.

There was an intense, but brief, downpour that included hail at Wrigley just before the gates opened at 5 p.m.:

This literally lasted about 15 minutes and then cleared the area, and the game was played in pleasant conditions (84 degrees at game time), though with the wind blowing out at 15 miles per hour. It didn’t affect either of the Braves’ home runs, though, as both of those balls were well struck.

Now let’s talk about this:

And why did they do this?

Sometime in the mid-1990s (I believe after the strike ended in 1995), the Cubs began wearing these jerseys at road games. The earliest evidence I can find of the blue alt at a home game is this photo of Jon Lieber pitching against the Cardinals, May 30, 1999:

AFP/Getty Images

Over time, the selection of jersey worn, home or road, morphed into “let the starting pitcher choose” (it’s my recollection that was begun by Carlos Zambrano). When the Ricketts family bought the team they announced that the blue alt wasn’t going to be worn at Wrigley Field anymore, and indeed, it was not, until Tuesday. It appears the last time before Tuesday that the blue alts were worn at Wrigley Field was September 30, 2009 in the second game of a split doubleheader.

You all know how I feel about those jerseys; I don’t care for them much and prefer the pinstripes at home, gray on the road. And while the jersey the team wears has nothing to do with their performance, I will call your attention to this, from the schedule/results page that’s always on the front page of this site:

Cubs 2019 regular-season record wearing various uniforms

Home pinstripe: 28-14
Blue alternate: 4-10
Road gray: 11-12

Baseball players can be superstitious sorts (or, as Maddon once said, “I’m a little stitious”). The team’s record isn’t good this year wearing the blue jersey. If it were up to me, I would have the Cubs not wear them again this year, and certainly not at Wrigley Field.

Fortunately, everyone else in the N.L. Central also lost Tuesday evening, so the Cubs’ lead remains at one game over the Brewers and 2½ over the Cardinals.

The Cubs will try it again Wednesday evening against the Braves. Yu Darvish gets the start for the Cubs and Dallas Keuchel makes his second Atlanta start. Game time again is 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via WGN (and also on MLB Network outside the Cubs and Braves market territories).