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Braves 8, Cubs 7: Kris Bryant’s grand slam is not enough for victory

The Cubs put together some offense, but fell short Monday evening in Atlanta.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs and Braves played a total of 23 innings in their games Sunday against the Brewers and Diamondbacks, respectively.

They combined for a total of five hits and no runs.

So it figures, right? The next day, the Cubs and Braves combine for 16 hits and 15 runs when playing each other. Unfortunately, the Braves put one more on the board than the Cubs did and won the game 8-7, a three-run homer by Freddie Freeman the ultimate difference.

This all started with more failure from Zach Davies. In the first inning, he threw 34 pitches and the Braves batted around. By the time the inning was over, Atlanta had four hits, two walks and four runs.

I just don’t get this at all. Davies wasn’t a superstar before he came to the Cubs, but he was a quality MLB starting pitcher with a 3.79 career ERA, a 2.6 per nine inning walk rate and an average of 1.6 bWAR per season, including the truncated 2020 season.

Now? He’s almost tripled that walk rate and is leading the major leagues in earned runs allowed. His career ERA has jumped from that previous 3.79 mark to 3.94 in just 19 innings. In order to get it back to 3.79 he’d have to throw 30 consecutive scoreless innings, and the way he’s going he can barely throw 30 consecutive scoreless pitches.

I wish I understood what’s wrong with him, because the Cubs need him to be better than this.

The Cubs, though, weren’t going to just take this quietly. In the third inning they loaded the bases with singles by Davies (!), Nico Hoerner and, one out later, a walk by Anthony Rizzo.

Kris Bryant unloaded the bases [VIDEO].

The sixth grand slam of Bryant’s career tied the game 4-4.

Unfortunately, Davies gave that run right back in the bottom of the inning on a home run by Dansby Swanson. Davies didn’t even finish the fourth inning, removed with two out in favor of Dillon Maples, who allowed a single but no more scoring. Davies threw 85 pitches (47 strikes) to record 11 outs. This cannot continue.

In the top of the fifth, Tony Wolters batted for Maples and walked. Hoerner doubled him to third, where he scored on a sacrifice fly by Rizzo, tying the contest once again.

Unfortunately, Brandon Workman, throwing the fifth, did not work out very well for the Cubs. He put two runners on via a double and a walk and then Freeman hit his aforementioned home run to make it 8-5 Atlanta.

Trevor Megill made his major-league debut in the bottom of the sixth and recorded a scoreless inning with two strikeouts, though with a hit and walk allowed. Also, this:

In an era when speeds like this appear to be routine, the Cubs could use more guys who can throw this hard.

Anyway, that’s where things stood in the top of the seventh with Matt Duffy on first via a walk and one out. Willson Contreras then hit a baseball a very, very long way [VIDEO].

Here’s where I normally tell you “That ball was crushed!”, but today that requires an explanation. First, the initial number:

491 not only would have been the longest of Willson’s career, it would have been the longest home run hit by any MLB player so far in 2021. That was a blast, but it didn’t seem quite that long watching live or on the video clip, and in fact:

456 is still pretty impressive — it currently ranks as the ninth-longest of 2021 to date.

Unfortunately, that’s where things ended, at 8-7. Andrew Chafin and Dan Winkler held the Braves scoreless in the seventh and eighth, but the Cubs could not score again. They had baserunners in both the eighth (Duffy, two-out single) and ninth (Bryant, two-out walk) but both runners were stranded.

Seven runs on six hits and six walks is a pretty good offensive output. The Cubs were 2-for-7 with RISP (one of those was Bryant’s slam) and left seven runners on base.

They are simply going to have to get better starting pitching. Seeing starters removed every day in the fourth or fifth inning is just not going to cut it.

The Cubs will look to even up this four-game set Tuesday evening when Trevor Williams takes the mound. Ian Anderson will start for Atlanta. Game time is 6:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network. Site note: The game previews for the remaining three games in this series will post each day at 4:30 p.m. CT.