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Braves 5, Cubs 1: Again, just... not... quite... enough

The Cubs stayed in this game until the eighth inning.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Rafael Ortega led off Thursday night’s game with a single.

Really, you could probably have turned the game off at that point, because the Cubs had just two other hits (singles by Ian Happ and Jason Heyward) the entire evening.

Nevertheless, they kept the game close at 2-1 until the eighth inning, when Ethan Roberts was touched up for three runs, including a two-run shot by Adam Duvall. The Cubs lost the game 5-1 and thus suffered a series defeat in Atlanta.

Drew Smyly didn’t pitch too badly. He allowed two runs before being lifted with two out in the fifth inning. Both runs scored on solo homers, one by Austin Riley, one by Dansby Swanson.

The Cubs managed to tie the game briefly in the second inning after Riley’s home run in the first. Alfonso Rivas and Heyward walked to lead off the inning. After Patrick Wisdom struck out, Nico Hoerner hit into a force play, advancing Rivas to third.

Then this happened [VIDEO].

That was a real brain fart on the part of the Braves. Nico got himself hung up between first and second long enough for Rivas to score to tie the game before being tagged out to end the inning.

But that was it for the Cubs offense, and that, as they say, was that.

Give Scott Effross and Chris Martin credit for keeping the game close at 2-1 until the bottom of the eighth. They threw 2⅓ scoreless innings and Effross, in particular, has been quite good this year: In nine appearances, eight of them have been scoreless and he has walked just one and struck out 11. In his brief MLB career, Effross has faced 92 batters and walked just two of them. He’s a valuable part of middle relief for this ballclub.

One thing that helped out Effross was this fantastic catch by Rivas [VIDEO] made on a blooper by Marcell Ozuna leading off the sixth inning.

I just don’t get it. He plays good defense at first base. He hits (.462 BA) and gets on base (.563 OBP). And yet, Rafael Ortega (.308 OBP) continues to hit in the leadoff spot. I. Just. Don’t. Get. It. I hope Rivas is not a casualty of the reduced roster size next week. He needs to play, if not every single day, then most days. I know a lot of you have been on board the Rivas train for some time, and I happily join you there.

That’s all I’ve got on this one, really. The Cubs did manage to hold the Braves to 11 runs in the three-game set, and just eight before the eighth inning of this one. That’s pretty good against a high-powered offense like Atlanta’s. But they scored just eight runs, and apart from the 10th inning Wednesday, only five. The offense is what’s going to have to improve if this Cubs team is going to put together wins.

One nice moment for the Cubs Thursday was the meeting of the Contreras brothers, who exchanged lineup cards as they played against each other on the same field for the first time (though William Contreras did not get into the game for Atlanta):

Things won’t get any easier for the Cubs this weekend, when they visit Milwaukee for the first time in 2022. Kyle Hendricks, who had a very good outing his last time out against the Pirates, gets the start for the Cubs. Adrian Houser will go for the Brewers. Game time is 7:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.