Anthony Rizzo has a smile on his face in the photo above, and this time it’s not because he had fun striking out Freddie Freeman.
Instead, it’s because he had three hits on the evening and the Cubs put together a 16-hit offense to go with a strong start from Adbert Alzolay and crushed the Braves 9-3, ending a five-game losing streak. The nine runs were two more than the Cubs had scored in the last four games of the streak, and the 16 hits nearly matched the 17 they had in the last four games combined.
The fun started early. Singles by Willson Contreras and Matt Duffy put runners on first and third for Kris Bryant [VIDEO].
After a force play again put runners on first and third, Braves starter Bryse Wilson balked in a run [VIDEO].
These runs ended a 20-inning scoreless streak, so that was welcome.
Duffy led off the third with a walk, and was doubled to third by Bryant. Javy Baez made it 3-0 with this sac fly [VIDEO].
Bryant took second on the play and Jason Heyward made it 4-0 [VIDEO].
The Braves scored one off Alzolay in the fourth, but the Cubs came right back with more offense in the fifth. Baez led off with a long triple (which Jim Deshaies called, right before he hit it!) and Heyward doubled him in [VIDEO].
Marcell Ozuna hit a home run off Alzolay in the sixth to make it 6-2, but overall Alzolay had an outstanding outing, his longest as a major leaguer, six innings, 94 pitches, four hits, two runs, six strikeouts. He also got his first major-league hit, a single in the second inning.
Meanwhile, the Cubs were not finished scoring. Jake Marisnick led off the seventh with his second homer of the year [VIDEO]. (Highlight complete with a batting demo from Ryne Sandberg!)
That ball went a long way!
Marisnick has been very good so far this year, one of the better additions by Jed Hoyer.
The Cubs continued their two-run alternate-inning pattern of this game by adding a second run in the frame on an Eric Sogard single, a groundout advancing him, an intentional walk and an RBI single by Duffy [VIDEO].
Duffy: Another solid acquisition by Hoyer. Don’t forget, Duffy was runner-up to Kris Bryant for Rookie of the Year in 2015 while with the Giants. He had a 3.9 bWAR season that year, but since then his career has been ruined by injuries. He’s 100 percent healthy now and appears to be a really useful player.
The Braves scored a run off Ryan Tepera in the seventh, but Andrew Chafin got out of that jam with a double play:
I like Chafin. Seems like a cool guy and a good teammate. Trevor Megill threw a scoreless eighth and appears to be a useful addition to the bullpen.
Could the Cubs score two more in an odd-numbered inning? No, but they did complete the scoring with a single run in the ninth on this sac fly by Contreras [VIDEO].
Craig Kimbrel came on to throw the ninth, as he hadn’t pitched in a week. Thus it’s not surprising that his control was a bit off. He walked Austin Riley on four pitches, then induced a double-play ball. He struck out Pablo Sandoval, which should have ended the game, but the ball got away from Contreras and Sandoval reached base. Kimbrel got Ronald Acuña Jr. to fly to right to end the game. It wasn’t a great outing for Kimbrel, but did get him some work without too many pitches thrown (16).
So the complaint department door is closed and locked up tight, for today, anyway. This team has too much talent to go through a losing streak like the one just ended too often. I was very encouraged by Alzolay’s outing, one of the best by a Cubs starter this season. While his ERA sits at 4.71, as I noted last night quite a few of the runs charged to him scored after he has departed games. His FIP of 3.76 and WHIP of 0.905, I believe, are better indicators of how well he’s pitched. More on Alzolay from one of his teammates:
Matt Duffy on Adbert Alzolay: “I think his stuff, I'll put it up there with anybody in baseball. Just the way it moves. I faced him in live BP right before the season started and was thoroughly impressed with the pure stuff."#Cubs— Russell Dorsey (@Russ_Dorsey1) April 30, 2021
The Cubs thus wrap their season series with the Braves at two wins, five losses, and unless there’s somehow a Cubs/Braves postseason matchup this October, the teams will not meet again until 2022. Okay by me — the Cubs are 4-10 vs. Atlanta since 2019.
The Cubs will end April by beginning a three-game series against the Reds in Cincinnati tonight. Jake Arrieta will start for the Cubs and Wade Miley will go for the Reds. Game time is 6:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network, and also on MLB Network outside the Cubs and Reds market territories.